Cost-shared funding allocated for Badger wastewater project
Approximately $230,000 in cost-shared funding between the provincial government and the Town of Badger is being invested in a water and wastewater infrastructure project in the community.
Premier Dwight Ball made the announcement Sept. 1.
Of the $230,000-investment, government is contributing approximately $187,000 for the water and wastewater system, allocated under the Municipal Capital Works program for municipal projects.
“Our government is committed to supporting the success of municipalities, and responding to infrastructure needs throughout the province,” Ball stated in a news release.
Ball was joined for the announcement at Badger Town Hall by Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Eddie Joyce and Advanced Education, Skills and Labour Minister Al Hawkins, MHA for Grand Falls-Windsor - Buchans.
“I am pleased to see this announcement taking place in Badger today,” Hawkins stated in the release. “This joint funding will greatly improve vital infrastructure and will improve community life for the residents of Badger.”
In Budget 2017, government announced $100 million would be invested in a new three-year program to support development of municipal infrastructure. In addition to Municipal Capital Works program funding, government will continue to leverage federal funding by providing $35 million over the next two years to allow an investment of $60 million through the federal Small Communities Fund of the New Building Canada Fund.
The findings are staggering, says Hewitt.
“I think there was roughly 50 samples sent off to New Brunswick to an accredited lab,” said Hewitt. “There was a high rate of arsenic levels – two levels were 1,000 parts per billion. The safe level is 10.”
Hewitt says while not every well was contaminated, most tested did show arsenic in the water. Surface wells are less likely to be contaminated. Artesian wells, pulling water from much deeper in the earth, are more prone to exposure says Hewitt.
Of those with positive findings, not all were deemed unsafe, but in Moreton’s Harbour alone Hewitt estimates at least 50 per cent of the wells contain unsafe drinking water.
That was four years ago, and the province has responded – even if the response has been limited, Hewitt says.
A program was created under the former government to test, and treat if necessary, wells on properties owned by Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, a Crown corporation. Those properties alone receive the benefit of the program, says Hewitt. Individual homeowners and those renting privately owned residential properties are on their own.
Testing is costly, and treatment even more so, but the cost of inaction can be much higher, Hewitt says.
Inorganic arsenic comes in two forms: Arsenic 3 and Arsenic 5. Both require different methods of removal. The doctor believes more can and should be done.
“I wouldn’t say the (province) hasn’t done some good work,” said Hewitt. “But still there’s the feeling it’s the well owners’ responsibility and the information is out there and it’s up to the well owner to avail of it.”
Hewitt says as a physician, he looks back and knows he has had patients affected by the issue. The information may be anecdotal, he says, but it’s telling in hindsight.
The cost is hard to measure. “It’s hard to quantify how much (illness) it is really causing, I can’t say for sure,” said Hewitt. “But it’s out there, and the proof that it is a bad thing is indisputable.”
The issue is not isolated to New World Island. Hewitt says there is a swath across the central region that places it in “very, very high risk.” The entire island could perhaps benefit from testing of its water supply, suggests Hewitt.
“Everywhere on the island I would say there is potential,” said Hewitt. “The west coast geologically has less chance, but not no chance, and Labrador – so far I don’t think there have been any positive tests, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist there.”
The Pilot has reached out to Service NL for information relating to arsenic testing requirements in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Pilot has also requested information on any available testing and treatment programs offered to residents by the province. The Pilot will provide updates as more information becomes available.