Water woes and more in Cupids
Mayor expresses concern about water safety; town hall is vacated
After basking in the national spotlight for a full year in 2010, the Town of Cupids is now facing a harsh reality as concerns about water quality come to the surface and the town hall is abandoned because of issues with air quality and the overall condition of the structure.
Mayor Ron Laracy is sounding the alarm about the quality of the water being supplied to the roughly 800 residents, and is calling on the provincial government to take action before someone gets sick, or worse.
Residents have continually expressed frustration about the brown discolouration of the water, and Laracy worries the problem may stem from farming operations in the area. He has no solid proof, but wonders if chicken waste being dumped in the area is contaminating the water.
“ They’re dumping more and more manure all the time,” Laracy told The Compass during a recent interview. He added there are a growing number of complaints about the odour coming from the farms.
Laracy even drew parallels to the 2000 tragedy in Walkterton, Ontario, where the water supply was contaminated by a highly dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria from farm run-off, resulting in the death of at least seven people. Some 2,500 others became ill.
Laracy works as a water and wastewater treatment specialist with the nearby Town of Clarke’s Beach.
“As Newfoundlanders, we all know that if you dump manure on the hill, it all comes to the salt water,” Laracy stated.
The town’s water comes from Brigus Long Pond, and Laracy is concerned that run-off from the chicken waste is getting into the supply.
Ron Laracy is mayor of the Town of Cupids.
He said the seriousness of this issue has increased in the last year because of a worrisome change in the results of tests done on the water.
“Let’s say we’re supposed to have a 20 count. Well, we’re up to a 30 count,” Laracy explained.
At the same time, he points out the amount of chlorine added to the water supply remains below government-imposed limits.
Meanwhile, the mayor is cautioning against jumping to conclusions. “ We can’t say for sure (the problem) is caused by the manure, but all indications are it could be that.”
Council has not met with any of the farmers. Laracy believes it shouldn’t have to.
“ It’s a ( provincial) government issue, and they have more knowledge than we do about this,” Laracy said.
The mayor did not advise against drinking the water, and there is no boil order in effect.
He also acknowledged other factors may be contributing to concers about water quality. He said, “a lot of debris is getting washed down off the banks into our water supply.”
He suggested that perhaps an improved filtering system could be put in place.
The water supply is operated and maintained by the neighbouring Town of Brigus. The Town of South River is also supplied by Brigus Long Pond.
Laracy said Cupids is the only town that has expressed any concern to the government.
“It’s a precaution we’re taking ourselves,” he said, adding that, at some point, the matter will be brought to the other two councils.
Laracy said a government representative is scheduled to visit in the future to test the water, and to check the distance from the water supply to the nearest location where chicken waste is being dumped.
“ There’s no good talking about it and, a year later, something happens and we say, ‘we knew about this, but we didn’t say anything,’” Laracy said.
Town hall abandoned
In another development, the town hall has been abandoned and the administrative affairs of the town have been relocated to the community centre.
Laracy said the building was damaged by Hurricane Igor last fall, and also sustained damage during tropical storm Chantal in 2007. The basement flooded and the well overflowed, resulting in serious damage, he said.
Occupational health and safety officials have cautioned against using the basement, and council recently decided to vacate the building altogether.
“ We have a massive amount of mildew and condensation, and we’re starting to get mold,” Laracy said. “It’s unhealthy to be in the building.”
There are several other drawbacks to the building, which was erected in 1964. It has no wheelchair ramp, the siding is antiquated, and it’s too small to accommodate the town’s needs.
“ We know we aren’t going back in that building, and the community centre will be used as long as necessary,” Laracy said.
The town hall could be repaired, but Laracy said that would be a waste of money. Council has already filed an application with government for a new building, Laracy said.
“ You have to work with the government at all times to get everything in your community to work,” he said. “ You also have to let your people know what’s going on. If they see you’re doing something, they’re behind you. I think they are well behind our council.”
Cupids is still basking in the reflected glory of the year-long celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of the birthplace of English Canada.
Approximately 40,000 visitors converged on the town in 2010. Infrastructure money of $ 1,500,000 financed water-and-sewer upgrades, Pointe Beach/Saltwater Pond improvements, and a three-flags viewing platform.
And the world-class Cupids Legacy Centre is an icon tourist attraction which will keep alive the Cupids experience for years to come.
Despite the challenges with the town water and town hall, Laracy remains confident about the future of his town.
“It’s going to grow more than we figure it’s going to grow,” he said.