Happy Valley-Goose Bay residents concerned over tap water quality
© Derek Montague
Carol Best left her tap run to prevent her water lines freezing. Overnight, a white facecloth she put in the sink had begun turning brown.
Like most Labradorians have been doing during this extremely cold winter season, Carol Best began running water in her bathroom sink so the lines wouldn’t freeze up in her home.
To silence the noise of the running tap, Best put a white facecloth inside the sink overnight on Thursday. When Best woke up the next morning, she was shocked by what she saw.
“When I got up this morning, I saw that that the facecloth changed from white to this brown (colour), with this big brown spot where the water had been running,” said Best.
“I was grossed out.”
Best doesn’t know why her cloth turned into a brownish colour, but it has renewed longstanding concerns that she has about the water quality in her area.
Best lives in the Valley and gets her water from the Well Field that was hooked up in 2002. Ever since than, Best has noticed a big change in the taste, smell, and overall quality of the tap water.
“We use a Britta so that I can purify the stuff. But you’re exposed to it everyway; you bathe and you wash your dishes and you cook in it…” Says Best.
“I don’t agree with bottled water, that’s something I do at a minimum because I don’t agree with the waste.”
Best works uptown, and her office building is connected to the Spring Gulch water source. She notices a big difference between the Spring Gulch water and the water she gets from her home.
“I drink the water up there and actually bring some home with me in bottles,” says Best.
“There’s always been something different with the water down here than up above. So I’m hoping that the new (Town) Council will look at this seriously…”
Indeed there is something different between the two water sources in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. According to Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Environment and Conservation’s latest samples, the Well Field has a higher trihalomethanes (THM) level than the Spring Gulch.
THMs are disinfection bi products that are formed when chlorine is added to water. According to the Department of Environment and Conservation website “…new epidemiological (human) studies had been published which reported associations between THMs and bladder and colon cancer, and adverse pregnancy outcomes including miscarriage, birth defects and low birth weight.”
The national guideline for THM levels in water supplies is 100 micrograms per litre (ug/l). The Well Field in Happy Valley is slightly over that mark, with 100.70 ug/l, while the spring gulch has a THM level of 63.78.
Besides the difference in taste and smell, Carol Best, like many other Valley residents, claims that the water plays havoc with plumbing and other fixtures. She says that her household has gone through six or seven water heaters since 2002. Prior to the Well Field hookup, Best claims that they had the same heater for more than 10 years.
After discovering the discolouration with her washcloth, Best took her complaints to facebook, where other residents shared similar complaints with her. The Happy Valley-Goose Bay Town Council quickly responded on social media, saying that they will be hiring an independent chemist to look into the matter.
“This issue is actively being worked on by the Municipal Services Committee of Council and it's chair Councillor Shannon Tobin,” says the official statement. “In the last council meeting a motion was passed whereby Council would seek to hire an independent chemist to test the water of our town. The intent for this is to get both a comprehensive analysis of the water systems that are present and to get recommendations as to how to address the concerns of residents.”
“We hope that hiring an independent chemist will give staff the knowledge necessary to address the issues that many people are identifying as a concern even though their water is still considered safe to drink.”
Below is a list of THM levels for all Labrador communities listed in the Environment and Conservation Department’s “Summary for Public Water Supplies in Newfoundland and Labrador.” The list is sorted from the lowest level to the highest.
Note: PWDU means potable water dispensing unit.
Forteau (Trout Brook) 0.00
Northwest River (Wells 1 2 &3) 1.75
Red Bay (Northern Brook) 2.15
Black Tickle-PWDU (Martin’s Pond-Tap at Pumphouse) 2.80
L’Anse Au Clair (Park Pond) 6.57
Mary’s Harbour-PWDU (St Mary’s River) 19.25
L’Anse Au Loup (L’Anse Au Loup River) 25.70
Nain (Nain Brook and Anainik’s Pond) 45.83
Black Tickle-Outside Tap (Martin’s Pond-Tap at Pumphouse) 46.13
Labrador City (Beverly Lake) 49.58
Natuashish (Sango Brook and Wellfield) 56.58
Happy Valley-Goose Bay (Spring Gulch) 63.78
West St. Modeste (Well field) 66.13
Sheshatshiu (Wells 1 2 &3) 72.40
Charlottetown (Middle Pond) 74.28
Hopedale (American Pond) 78.25
Churchill Falls (Smallwood Reservoir) 84.88
Wabush (Wahnahnish Lake) 87.25
Happy Valley-Goose Bay (Well Field) 100.70
Makkovik (Ranger Bight Pond) 149.50
Postville (Big Pond) 215.50
Mary’s Harbour (St. Mary’s River) 264.75
Rigolet (Rigolet Pond) 322.00
Port Hope Simpson (Arnold’s Brook and Pond) 356.50
Cartwright (Burdett’s Pond) 393.25
More to come on this story