Wa­ter woes and more in Cupids

Mayor ex­presses concern about wa­ter safety; town hall is va­cated

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY BUR­TON K. JANES

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.”

Sig­nif­i­cant cel­e­bra­tion

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.

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