Waiting for water

Bonnie Learning
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Black Tickle residents hoping for clean drinking water by end of the week

Laura Keefe is keeping her fingers crossed that Black Tickle’s Advanced Drinking Water System (ADWS) is back on-line by the end of this week.

Residents of Black Tickle on Labrador’s south coast are hoping their water treatment facility will be up and running by the end of this week.

The small community on Labrador’s south coast has been without clean drinking water since this past spring, when the ADWS’s full-time employee had to be laid off due to lack of funds to keep the system operational.

The community has been on a boil water order ever since.

To add to that unfortunate situation, all the original members of the community’s Local Service District (LSD) resigned for one reason or another shortly after the ADWS shutdown.

“We (recently) applied for more money to operate, and we had some funding come through from NunatuKavut and the provincial government,” explained Laura Keefe, the treasurer for the new LSD, noting the funds total approximately $30,000.

She said the former full-time employee has since been re-hired, but other problems arose.

“There was an issue with the pump at the (ADWS), so we got a new pump, and then there was an issue with the power source,” said Keefe.

“So we had to get the line crew in from Goose Bay to fix that.”

As of July 14, Keefe said all lines are now being flushed and chlorine is being added, and samples will be sent to Happy Valley-Goose Bay for testing come next week.

“We will be sending samples out on Monday and Wednesday next week, as they need samples taken 48 hours apart,” explained Keefe.

“If they come back fine, then we can start full operations again.”

Keefe noted while many residents have been boiling their water, there are others who have not.

“People have gotten sick from drinking (untreated water from local brooks),” she said. “People have also gotten water by getting ice berg chips.”

As for her own home, Keefe said she is grateful she invested in a reverse osmosis system for her household water.

“It is basically a water treatment system, but on a small scale,” she said. “Today, they run around $200, so it’s definitely something worth looking at.”

‘Nothing to quench thirst’

The water issue in Black Tickle was also a major concern recently with the lack of stock at local stores.

Due to issues with both the MV Astron and MV Sir Robert Bond the last few weeks, many coastal Labrador communities were without freight and are only just now receiving their summer supplies.

Lisa Dempster is the MHA for Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair.

She held a public meeting in Black Tickle two weeks ago to talk about the freight issue and other concerns.

“I had a call from (a constituent) who said she was ‘thirsty,’” recalled Dempster.

“Now, I’ve been asked for a lot of things as MHA, but this is the first time someone has called me up and said they were thirsty.”

Dempster said she can’t comprehend, in this day and age, how any community in Newfoundland and Labrador cannot have access to clean drinking water.

“People (have been) buying pop and juice because there is no clean drinking water. And we all know you can drink as much of that as you want, but nothing is going to actually quench your thirst like water.”

She added it was also not an option for business owners to bring in bottled water during the ADWS shutdown.

“I spoke to a business owner (July 8). I asked why there was no bottled water available. She explained to me that, if she were to bring in bottled water — which is not subsidized under the province’s Air Food Lift program — she would have to sell it for $8-9 a gallon because of the cost to bring it in on plane. People on low incomes wouldn’t be able to afford that.”

Government responds

A spokesperson for the Department of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs, said “clean and safe drinking water is a priority for the Department of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs in its support of municipal infrastructure.”

“The Department…is aware of these issues and has been working with community leaders in the community to help them identify ways to support the ongoing operations of their ADWS,” said the spokesperson in an email to The Labradorian.

“The community is currently making efforts to reactivate the system with the support of staff from the Department’s Labrador Regional Office.”

The email also stated the small scale water treatment plants, with a low operation and maintenance cost, are a viable and sustainable option for remote communities where drinking water can be collected that meets the Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines.

“Communities with a population of 500 or less are encouraged to consider this option for addressing water quality issues,” said the spokesperson, adding although responsibility for operation of the water system rests with the community’s LSD,  “the Department is providing support to the community to ensure the system is operational as soon as possible.”

Organizations: Local Service District, Department of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs, Labrador Regional Office Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Goose Bay, Black Tickle Happy Valley

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Recent comments

  • Clara Morris
    July 14, 2014 - 21:38

    I don't think that's askin for much...clean drinkin water...I'm thirsty. It's a shame how our government ignores our needs...it's time for them to stop treating us people as 3rd world. They no where Black Tickle is when election rolls around again ..very very sad.