Residents of Onoway, a small town in the pristine Alberta province of Canada, were surprised to see bright pink and light purple water coming out of their faucets and shower heads in early March. According to Canada’s National Post, the strange incident was first noticed by a town resident who promptly called her neighbor to ask if she had noticed the unusual coloring of the water. The neighbor checked her faucets, which appeared to be operating normally; however, her daughter did notice purple water coming out of of the bathroom sink faucet.
It did not take long before hundreds of residents started posting Facebook updates warning about the strangely colored water, which some residents described as being similar to pink lemonade. As can be expected, it did not take long for the pink water reports to go viral on Facebook, and residents of Onoway were bemused to learn that their small town was being mentioned on several international news outlets. Many referenced popular culture in speaking of this incident, recalling the work of Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini or his American counterpart David Lynch, whose movies sometimes feature plot lines that depict surrealist situations such as water turning a different color or blood coming out of the tap.
Thankfully, the issue with the Canadian pink water was not a health emergency and did not present a risk to the people of Onoway. The public works department explained that the curiously-colored water was an accident that occurred while washing filters at the treatment plant with potassium permanganate, a salt that acts as a powerful bleaching agent, which is known to turn water pink when used in significant amounts. The chemical somehow entered the potable water lines due to a blunder by a technician. Environmental protection officials from the Alberta province were called in to assess the situation, which was never too alarming.
Public health officials tested the water and deemed it safe for drinking, although Onoway residents did not take their chances and waited for the town’s reservoir to be emptied and refilled with fresh, clear water. The only residents at risk may have been those with sensitive skin, which could become irritated by the potassium permanganate. Fortunately, no medical situations were reported.