GOOSE COVE, N.L. — Residents of this small town on the Great Northern Peninsula are wondering they ended up going 15 days with a dirty water supply.
From June 22 to July 6, the town of Goose Cove was without clean water.
When residents poured out their taps, cloudy, grey water, full of sediment, poured out.
Some residents also noticed a Sulphur odour.
Goose Cove has had a boil order on its water system for a number of years and residents have been used to getting drinking water elsewhere.
But with the water so dirty the past two weeks, they were unable to bathe or wash clothes in their own homes.
Many residents were forced to travel to the homes of family and friends living in nearby St. Anthony.
Others set up water tanks outside their homes, connected to nearby ponds. This water wasn’t safe to drink, but it was at least clean to use for washing and bathing.
Resident Jerome Ward says it cost him a “couple hundred” dollars to install a makeshift system for his home.
The pollution of the water was caused by work conducted by B&R Enterprises, a company contracted by the town.
According to mayor Roy Ward, the company was contracted to increase the volume of water in the town’s reservoir.
But the company’s dredging stirred up sediment that never settled.
“Between the reservoir, where the dam was to, and the pond, there’s a shoal bar. In the winter, when the dam would go down, the water wouldn’t run from the pond to the reservoir,” he explained. “And they’re putting (in) a membrane to tighten up the dam and at the same time, they were going to take this bar out of it and that would give access to all the water that was in the pond.
“When they did this dredging, it stirred up (sediment into) the water. And they had to go into the pond further than they anticipated, so they couldn’t hold no water in the pond as an alternate source.”
Roy says the company decided to wait for the sediment to settle before installing a bypass line to temporarily provide an alternate water supply.
But the town’s water remained dirty. He says the mud settled but the “fine silt” did not.
Residents had to wait until July 6, when the bypass was successfully installed, to finally get clean water.
They went 15 days in total without any.
Roy believes the situation was unavoidable.
“It’s not something that was avoidable because they were hoping to use a berm that would hold the water in the pond and use that as a reservoir while they did the work on the dam,” he said. “But where they had to go into the pond, the berm they were using was out the door. Whatever contractor did that would have the same problem. It’s not a problem with the contractor, from my point of view.”
But some residents feel differently.
Jerome Ward believes a bypass line could have been installed when the contractor started work, to ensure residents would not go an extended period of time without water.
He questions why this wasn’t done.
“I think any time the (Department of) Environment or the town signs off on a project . . . in past practices, they wouldn’t sign off on the project unless potable water was provided to the town,” he told the Northern Pen. “And, I don’t know for sure but I’m pretty well certain, I can’t see them doing a project like that without funding into the project to put a bypass line to make sure people got clean water while this work was being done.
“And if it wasn’t then somebody fooled up terribly and somebody should be held responsible.”
Jerome believes it would be unacceptable to say this was too costly.
“People’s well-being and everything else comes before that mighty dollar sign,” he said.
Another resident, Maxwell Sexton, felt the town should have been provided another source of water.
“There was no plan to start with. They should have gave us a source of water,” he told the Northern Pen. “At least you could wash a bit of laundry, take a shower and wash your dishes.
“It’s unreal to do what they did.”
He says residents had no warning and never expected anything like this could happen.
Sexton says he contacted the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment about the situation.
The Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment informed the Northern Pen on Friday, July 6, it was in contact with the town of Goose Cove and the consultant as they worked toward installing the bypass.
The department said it offered assistance to the community to work toward resolving the issue.