Over­whelmed with wa­ter woes

No quick so­lu­tion for Con­cep­tion Bay com­mu­nity with well is­sues

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BYMELISSA JENK­INS

A young fam­ily liv­ing in the Town of Small Point-Broad Cove-Black­head-Adam’s Cove can’t shower, do laun­dry or clean their home for ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time ev­ery day.

A wa­ter short­age in one com­mu­nity is caus­ing lo­cals to strug­gle to keep their chil­dren bathed, their clothes clean and even drink wa­ter from their own tap.

Su­san and Shawn Tra­verse own their home along Route 70 in the town of some 700 peo­ple – half of whom are sea­sonal res­i­dents. Ev­ery house­hold is ser­viced by one of sev­eral wells in the com­mu­nity, one of which ser­vices over 100 homes, town of­fi­cials told The Com­pass last week.

The well, which ser­vices the Tra­verse’s home, ser­vices 26 houses — about half are sea­sonal res­i­dents — a church and a com­mu­nity cen­tre. But the Tra­verse fam­ily says they have never been “ser­viced” on the well, at least not con­sis­tently.

The cou­ple pur­chased their dark grey bungalow in March 2008. At the time, they were aware there was a per­ma­nent boil or­der in ef­fect. Soon, it was re­vealed the well wa­ter had a high con­cen­tra­tion of the el­e­ment ar­senic.

The pro­vin­cial Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Con­ser­va­tion de­fines ar­senic as, “a well­known poi­sonous sub­stance and is classed as be­ing car­cino­genic to hu­mans.”

In 2010, the ar­senic is­sue ap­peared to be over af­ter in­stalling a fil­ter, but there was still trou­ble with wa­ter ac­cess.

“We would lose our wa­ter all the time, at any point dur­ing the day it could just be gone,” Su­san said. “With­out any warn­ing it would just keep get­ting shut off.

Af­ter a while, the wa­ter be­came more and more scarce —even af­ter the well was dug deeper — un­til fi­nally it started get­ting turned off ev­ery night.

“We couldn’t even flush our toi­let dur­ing Christ­mas,” Su­san said. “It was em­bar­rass­ing.”

“We have to pick and choose what laun­dry can be washed and what can wait. It’s just pil­ing up.”

Su­san noted when the wa­ter was turned back on, the pres­sure in the cop­per pipes in her home caused very loud bang­ing, un­til she couldn’t take it any­more.

The cou­ple spent hun­dreds of dol­lars re­plac­ing the cop­per pipe with plas­tic pipe, just to stop the noise.

“The bang­ing was gone, but we still had no wa­ter,” said Su­san.

Town of­fi­cials con­firmed the sit­u­a­tion was caused by lack of wa­ter in the well, and the only means to con­serve it was to limit the amount of wa­ter that was be­ing used.

Ev­ery evening the wa­ter would be turned off, and in the early morn­ing a town em­ployee would check the lev­els to see if he could turn it back on.

Ear­lier this year the wa­ter was deemed un­fit for con­sump­tion, so a zero con­sump­tion pol­icy was put in place.

Su­san ex­plained that the ar­senic lev­els had gone up again, and were higher than gov­ern­ment stan­dards al­lowed.

Town of­fi­cials con­firmed sea­sonal res­i­dents who were on that well did not visit the area as much as in the past.

Res­i­dents of the area were bor­row­ing wa­ter from neigh­bours and con­sis­tently pur­chas­ing bot­tled wa­ter.

Su­san’s son Alex, who is in Grade 1, un­der­stands the dan­gers of drink­ing the wa­ter. She said he was in his small pool this past sum­mer — which took four days to fill up — and told a friend not to drink the wa­ter be­cause it was “poi­son.” “What could I say? It was true,” she ex­plained. The town in­vested some $13,000 into a new fil­tra­tion sys­tem on the well, and the wa­ter was fit to use again. But there is still a boil or­der in ef­fect.

Mayor Ernest Gos­ney is new to the mu­nic­i­pal po­lit­i­cal scene, but dove in head­first when he heard about the wa­ter sit­u­a­tion.

“Wa­ter should be a pri­or­ity,” he told The Com­pass dur­ing a phone in­ter­view Nov. 6. “But it looks like that well may be go­ing dry.”

Su­san and her hus­band have in­formed the town they will no longer pay their mu­nic­i­pal fees be­cause of lack of wa­ter ser­vice, and Gos­ney does not ob­ject.

“The res­i­dents have ev­ery right to protest,” he said. “The fees are sup­posed to cover ser­vices, and they are not re­ceiv­ing th­ese ser­vices.”

The town only has a lim­ited sup­ply of money, so they de­pend on cap­i­tal works fund­ing at a cost share of 90 per cent by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment and 10 per cent by the town.

“We have ap­plied for cap­i­tal works for wa­ter in the past,” town clerk Dana Fa­gan said. “We will keep ap­ply­ing.

“All wells are at ca­pac­ity and we can­not reroute to another well.” But what op­tions does the town have? “We could start (dig­ging a new well) im­me­di­ately if we get fund­ing,” Gos­ney ex­plained. “We could try to bor­row, but we may have to jack up taxes. We don’t want to have to do that.”

Gos­ney said the only other op­tion is to wait for the town to get ap­proved for cap­i­tal works grants, which is not guar­an­teed. If they do get ap­proved, work can­not be­gin un­til spring when fund­ing be­comes avail­able.

“It’s frus­trat­ing for the town, it’s frus­trat­ing for the house­holds af­fected,” Gos­ney con­cluded.

“It’s time for some­thing to be done,” Su­san stated. “We can’t keep liv­ing like this.”

Photo by Melissa Jenk­ins/Spe­cial to The Com­pass

This green and white build­ing is the wa­ter shed for a well sys­tem that has been the cause of some ma­jor wa­ter trou­ble for 26 house­holds in the Town of Small Point-Broad Cove-Black­head-Adam’s Cove.

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