The city of Saint John is hoping a new chemical known to reduce pipe corrosion will help temporarily alleviate the city's west-side water problems.

The municipality has received more than 100 reports of leaking pipes since switching the west-side water supply from Spruce Lake to a well field in South Bay last September.

Residents filed a class-action lawsuit as a result, accusing the city of negligence and breach of contract.

Mayor Don Darling held an emergency meeting Tuesday night to address residents’ concerns. Council unanimously approved for staff to add orthophosphate to the water, a chemical used in many municipalities to control pipe corrosion.

“You want to have water going through your plumbing that isn't picking up any copper,” says water expert Mike Chalk. “The phosphate will stick to that copper surface and keep it intact and keep it from dissolving."

Council says the phosphate will be implemented within a month. It’s estimated to cost nearly $50,000 to install and $90,000 to treat the water for a year.

But it's not clear if that will solve the problem.

“There is not an easy and clear answer to all of that right now,” Chalk says. “There are a couple of overlapping ideas on what's happening.There's some belief it’s related to the transition and there's some belief that maybe it’s just the ground water itself." 

Lawyer Charles Bryant, who filed the class-action lawsuit, says 130 people have signed on demanding the city pay for changes.

"There are industry standards for doing a changeover in the source of water and we're interested in determining whether those standards were followed and what information as yielded from those studies,” says Bryant.

Pam Ross has lived on the west side of Saint John most of her life. She says she’s had to pay thousands ever since the city switched from Spruce Lake to the wellfield in South Bay.

“We've lost trust in our city. We weren't privy to a lot of the goings on,” says Ross.”

Ross says her water is harder and other residents have complained of skin irritation, with some experiencing hair loss.

"We all can't be making this up. We're all devastated."

City staff will report back to council on the new system in five months to see if the chemical treatment is working.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mary Cranston.