Town of Burgeo aims to conserve water to keep costs reasonable
But operational water plan unpopular with some residents
BURGEO – Water issues are nothing new for Burgeo.
Until two years ago the town had been under a highly-publicized boil water order that lasted over a decade.
The town has clean, safe drinking water now, but that doesn’t mean everything is fine.
While the town does have lots of water, the cost of treatment is not cheap. The more they have to treat the water, the more it costs the town, which is water conservation is very important to keep fees down for the 600 households in the town..
“We’ve got two challenges,” Mayor Barbara Barter told The Gulf News. “One is our aging infrastructure and the other is the residents’ inability to conserve.”
Barter says that as leaks are identified in the water system, they are dealt with as swiftly and as economically as possible.
In some cases the water pipe is buried quite deep and requires considerable time and effort to access. The Mayor added the pipe, at 18 inches diameter, is larger than it really needs to be to serve the town.
Barter says when it comes to conservation, residents are making good efforts to save on water consumption.
“A lot of the townspeople . . . in the last few years have been working towards doing better with water conservation themselves.”
Some residents use heat tracers or slow flow valves, or upgraded insulation in order to ensure their pipes don’t freeze in the winter. Still, other keep their water running to ensure their pipes and sewers don’t freeze, a measure Barter can understand.
“No one wants to go two or three months without their sewer system,” she said.
Barter says council is working to ensure residents take steps to use their water more conservatively than they have in the past. To that end council adopted an eight-step Operational Water Plan at its May 17 meeting, a move that did not sit well with some residents.
Some residents formed a delegation that sent former mayor George Reid to voice their concerns at the June 21 meeting. He proposed alternatives, such as bypassing the water treatment plant for some of the year. The group he represented also object to installation of water meters.
The mayor says shutting down the treatment system would necessitate residents returning to a boil order.
Barter also says it would make the town liable and doesn’t think it’s fair to force residents to buy clean drinking water.
Water meters are part of the seventh step in the plan.
Under the Municipalities Act the town can install them, but Barter considers that a final contingency for dealing with uncooperative residents after all other options have been completely exhausted.
Instead, she said, council is focused more on educating residents about proper conservation by providing information through flyers, council reports and the Burgeo Broadcasting System (BBS).
Council has also voted to hire a parttime monitor to work with residents by checking their water flow and helping them adjust it to acceptable levels.
“What happens when you’re running it by leaving the ball out of your toilet or leaving your tap open completely?” asked Barter, citing a huge difference in the wastage from a quarter inch to a half- inch flow. “If we did have residents who wouldn’t cooperate or didn’t want a person contacting them, then we would install a meter, especially for those who would refuse to cooperate. And that was the last resort.”
Barter says she has appeared on BBS to address some of these concerns and to try to help clarify the water plan, but she’s still getting a lot of phone calls from residents worried they’ll have a water meter attached to their house to the tune, at a cost if approximately $500.
Barter says the easiest way for householders to avoid that step, is to cooperate with the town’s information requests about water usage and adhere to the approved conservation rules; including not panicking and filling the bathtub every time the power goes out.
If residents take the proper steps to conserve water, she said, then the town will have less reason to implement step seven: water meters.
“If you can’t work with us and give us your readings then we’re going to need some other way to do that,” said Barter, who also doesn’t care to see any meters installed.
Nonetheless, she said council must continue to keep the town’s options open in order to protect the water supply.
“We have a right to manage the system to provide good service,” she said.
Attempts to reach George Reid for comment prior to print deadline on July 27 were unsuccessful.
Burgeo water treatment plant.