Cartwright water system to be upgraded

Derek Montague
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There’s hope the investment will address water quality concerns

For years, residents of Cartwright have had major health concerns over their tap water quality and have been hoping that the provincial government would do something to fix it.

Cartwright, NL

The water often appears discoloured and many residents say it’s not fit, or healthy, to drink.

Former Cartwright mayor Blair Gillis, who passed away earlier this year, once described the water as being “the colour of the earth" and blamed engineering flaws for the poor water quality.

"It was a design flaw back from the engineers who built it in the first place," Gillis said in January 2014. "When they built the reservoir, the trees weren't cut down, and now, 30 years later, they're all rotten, so they're gone to mush and they're coming out in the waterline."

Water quality studies have also given rise for concern in the community, especially with the unusually high THM levels that have been found.

THMs are disinfection byproducts that are formed when chlorine is added to water.

According to the Department of Environment and Conservation website, " 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). In the "Summary for Public Water Supplies in Newfoundland and Labrador," compiled in 2013, Cartwright had a THM level of 393.25 ug/l, nearly four times higher than the guideline.

Now, as part of the 2014 budget, the Department of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs has announced funding to complete water system upgrades for Cartwright. Specifically, the upgrades are meant to improve the chlorination system in the community.

Steve Kent, Minister of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs, is hopeful this will alleviate the water quality concerns.

“We hope (this will alleviate the problem),” said Kent, in an interview with The Labradorian. “The funding is being provided to the town to make improvements to their water system, partially because they had problems with their chlorination system and they want to make sure that their chlorination system is functioning properly.”

“So the funding will be used mainly for that purpose and that should address much of the concern people have about their water supply.”

The $205,000 investment will be cost-shared between the town and the province — 90 per cent provided by the province and 10 per cent from Cartwright.

Kent didn’t directly respond, when asked why funding for water system upgrades weren’t provided to Cartwright before 2014. But he did say that water quality is a priority for his department this year.

“Clean and safe drinking water is a high priority for the Department of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs. And we have invested considerable funding over the last number of years in water related projects,” said Kent.

“Since 2008, we have invested over $184 million in water-related projects. So, it’s a high priority for us. And, in terms of the tough capital works decisions that had to be made this year, I wanted to focus our energy on making sure that more people in Newfoundland and Labrador have access to safe and clean drinking water.”

Kent said he didn’t know enough about Cartwright’s water quality to comment on the potential health threats if upgrades to the communities system aren’t put in place.

“I don’t know what the specific water quality reports have said about Cartwright in recent times … what I do know is chlorination is an essential component. So if that system wasn’t functioning properly, then that would cause concern for the community.”

The Labradorian made several attempts to contact members of the Cartwright town council for an interview. As of press time, an interview had not been granted.

Below is the list of THM levels for Labrador communities, as 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.

Organizations: Department of Environment and Conservation, Department of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs, Wells 1 2 3 Martin's Big Pond

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, L'Anse Au Loup River, Happy Valley Goose Bay Red Bay Beverly Lake Sango Brook Spring Gulch Charlottetown Mary's Harbour Port Hope Simpson

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Recent comments

  • Raymond Gillis
    September 21, 2014 - 00:26

    I visited Cartwright in August of this year and also noticed the copper colored water coming out of the tap. The high TMH levels will still be a concern even if the chlorination issue is addressed. A study should be done to determine an alternate source of water as many locals go to a spring not far from town to get water. I find it puzzling that the Federal Government will send the DART all over the world to bring in potable drinking water yet so many communities in Canada do not have access to clean water, truly shameful. My late brother the Mayor hit the nail on the head, the source is the problem. Two options make sense, get a clean source or bring in a water treatment process (reverse osmosis) that makes the water drinkable. Chlorinating dirty water is wasting money if people will not drink it because of the color.