More small western New­found­land towns ex­press con­cerns at chal­lenge of ad­dress­ing THM lev­els in wa­ter

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Front Page - BY GARY KEAN WITH FILES FROM ROS­ALYN ROY

Hav­ing an is­sue with ex­ces­sive THM lev­els isn’t the only thing some western New­found­land com­mu­ni­ties have in com­mon.

They also share a con­cern with not be­ing able to tackle the prob­lem on their own and hav­ing few op­tions to pur­sue.

Sev­eral towns in western New­found­land are among the roughly one- quar­ter of New­found­land and Labrador com­mu­ni­ties with lev­els of dis­in­fec­tion byprod­ucts in drink­ing wa­ter sup­plies that ex­ceed Health Canada’s stan­dards.

Dis­in­fec­tion byprod­ucts, such as tri­halomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs), are cre­ated from the in­ter­ac­tion of chlo­rine with or­ganic ma­te­rial sus­pended in the wa­ter. Long-term ex­po­sure to ex­ces­sive lev­els of THMs and HAAs are sus­pected to pos­si­bly cause cancer and re­pro­duc­tion is­sues.

Deputy Mayor Al­fred Park of McIvers was sur­prised to hear there was an is­sue with his town’s wa­ter be­cause he has not seen any no­ti­fi­ca­tions say­ing as such.

“All we get is a sheet telling us the wa­ter is sat­is­fac­tory,” he said of the reg­u­lar mon­i­tor­ing done by the provin­cial gov­ern­ment on pub­lic drink­ing wa­ter sup­plies.

“I wasn’t even aware that by putting chlo­rine in it, you can drive some­thing else out of whack.”

The lat­est read­ings in McIvers had an av­er­age of 172 mi­cro­grams per litre of wa­ter, well above the ac­cept­able Health Canada stan­dard of 100 mi­cro­grams per litre.

It is gen­er­ally ac­cepted that chlo­ri­nat­ing wa­ter is still cru­cial to main­tain­ing potable wa­ter be­cause the risks

pre­sented by THMs are less than from not dis­in­fect­ing wa­ter to get rid of dis­ease­caus­ing bac­te­ria that can trig­ger more im­me­di­ate health ail­ments.

McIvers has been on a boil or­der for the past sev­eral weeks be­cause of work be­ing done to up­grade its wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture. That work was done to ad­dress a wa­ter short­age is­sue the town ex­pe­ri­enced a cou­ple of sum­mers ago.

The town also just spent $700,000 in shared cap­i­tal to in­stall a new sewer treat­ment sys­tem.

Park said McIvers will be hard-pressed to find a way to also ad­dress any is­sues it has with con­trol­ling THM lev­els.

“It does con­cern me be­cause the two most im­por­tant things we can do as a coun­cil, un­less we had a lot more funds than we get, is look after the wa­ter and the sewer,” he said. “If it means a load of money (to ad­dress the THM is­sue), what we can do about it is not a whole lot.”

It likely will cost a lot of money, if you ask the Town of Rocky Har­bour, where the lat­est THM read­ings were at 152.25 mi­cro­grams per litre.

Town clerk/man­ager Deb­bie Reid said the town looked into in­stalling a new wa­ter fil­tra­tion sys­tem years ago. If the mil­lions it would cost to pur­chase the sys­tem wasn’t de­ter­rent enough, the cost to main­tain the sys­tem cer­tainly was.

“It would have drove every­body’s taxes through the roof,” she said.

The town was suc­cess­ful in re­al­lo­cat­ing money for the sys­tem to re­plac­ing the main wa­ter line, but now Rocky Har­bour is look­ing for a new source for its wa­ter sup­ply.

The idea is to find a source that will have less or­ganic ma­te­rial in the sys­tem dur­ing the chlo­ri­na­tion process, re­sult­ing in lower THM lev­els after dis­in­fec­tion.

Reid said that process is still in the early stages.

She feels towns re­ally need the as­sis­tance of both the provin­cial and fed­eral lev­els of gov­ern­ment to get a han­dle on bring­ing THM lev­els down be­low the ac­cepted stan­dard.

“I think they are in sup­port of it, but I guess there is a big cry from other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties right across the prov­ince to have as­sis­tance with good drink­ing wa­ter,” said Reid.

South­west Coast

Sev­eral com­mu­ni­ties along the South­west Coast also have higher than ac­cept­able THM or HAA lev­els in their drink­ing wa­ter in­clud­ing Burgeo, Burnt Is­lands, Isle aux Morts, Ramea and La Poile.

La Poile and Burgeo have two of the high­est lev­els in the prov­ince, at 440 and 345 mi­cro­grams per litre re­spec­tively.

Burnt Is­lands lev­els are at 159.25 and Ramea, which has strug­gled with wa­ter is­sues since a storm surge dumped salt­wa­ter into its mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter sys­tem, tested at 526.25.

Ly­dia Fran­cis, town clerk for Isle aux Morts, re­sponded to in­quiries via email.

“The town is aware of the high level of THMs and the is­sue should be fixed within a week,” she wrote.

PHO­TOS BY J. R. ROY — SPE­CIAL TO THE GULF NEWS

Some of the towns on the west coast with poor THM read­ings in­clude Burgeo and La Poile.

En­joy­ing the view along Boat Cove Pond trail in Isle aux Morts.

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