'We'll always be on it'

Rudy Norman
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In 2011, the Provincial Government released a list of which communities in this province are under a water boil order.

Since then, the list is constantly updated with communities who find themselves in boil order situations for various reasons. At the time, The Nor'wester took note that 19 communities in this region were under boil order advisory for various reasons. Since then, that number has decreased, but only slightly. As of this week, 18 of the 42 communities in the Emerald Zone region are under boil orders for their day-to-day tap water.

The communities are, for the most part, the same as they were two years ago, however there are a couple of new additions, and a couple more that have gotten off the list, at least for now.

Since that article in June 2011, Little Bay Islands, Seal Cove, and Smith's Harbour have made their way on the boil order list. Others such as Woodstock, Beachside, Burlington and Middle Arm, and more, have still been unsuccessful in coming off the boil order which they've been on since as early as 2007.

Other towns in the region, like La Scie, Brent's Cove, Pacquet, and Westport have been on a boil order for more than 20 years - among the highest in the entire province.

Recently, it was announced that Pacquet would be receiving a Potable Water Dispensing unit thanks to funding from the Provincial Government. They system will provide residents with safe drinking water in a stand-alone building in the community accessible to the public.

While that may be a solution in the eyes of Pacquet's town council, the mayor of Middle Arm says council in that community has decided to pass on the idea.

"It's not for us," said Mayor Neville Robinson. "If we're going spend money to have a solution to the boil order situation here, it's not going to involve people going to get water in a bucket."

Middle Arm has been under boil order advisory since 2008 - something, the mayor says, residents seem to have even gotten used to. The solution for many, when it comes to drinking water, he says, is a spring that locals provided access to in town several years ago.

"That's why the Dispensing unit isn't an option for us," he said. "We've got that now, for free, so why spend money on building a building to put basically the same thing in?"

Robinson says the problem Middle Arm has is likely one that many communities have - they just don't have the resources or the wherewithal to get off the boil order advisory now that they're on it.

"In order to get off, you need to test the water every day - more than once," said the Mayor. "Then, you need to keep it up and provide constant testing, and we're just not prepared to do that," he said.

Middle Arm doesn't have a full-time maintenance person, said the mayor, and isn't in a position to go through all the testing required in order to come off the boil order. However, he says, when representatives from the Department of Environment and Conservation have tested the water during his term as mayor, the town has never failed a reading.

"We have always done well on our readings from the Department," he said. "But they only test in every few months - not enough to take us off the boil order."

For now, Robinson says as long as residents aren't too inconvenienced by the order, the town has no plans to make any changes to their position of maintaining status quo.

"We post the advisories every three months to let people know we're still on the boil order, and we'll keep doing it for however long we need to," he said. Unless regulations change or assistance comes to communities to help with testing, Robinson says he knows how long the town will be on their boil order.

"Unless something changes, and Government comes up with some other way for us to get off the list," he said, "then we'll always be on it."


Organizations: Potable Water Dispensing, Department of Environment and Conservation

Geographic location: Middle Arm, Seal Cove, Burlington La Scie Westport

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