Town dealing with water issues

Rudy Norman
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Brent’s Cove problems have been ongoing for years, says mayor

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It’s a concern and an issue for many municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador – access to reliable water sources is a vital and sometimes expensive endeavor that small towns deal with on a daily basis.

For one municipality on the Baie Verte Peninsula, however, their plight with the issue has been ongoing for quite some time, and some residents are getting frustrated with the difficulty in having suitable water access.

Thresea Sullivan, a resident of Brent’s Cove, says she’s one of what she considers to be about 40 per cent of their community that has trouble with their water access. The community of 181 people in the 2011 census has been dealing with water issues for years, says Sullivan, and with the recent cold weather, those issues have increased 10-fold.

For her, she says on Monday she woke up and discovered her water was frozen – limiting her completely to any water at all. However, she said, when the water isn’t frozen, she’s limited to nothing more than a ‘dribble’ and she says she’s not alone.

“Almost half the town are in the same state,” she explained. “We don’t get much water at all – and it’s really starting to get frustrating.”

Sullivan says she brought her concerns to council, but didn’t get any results.

“I didn’t get anything out of that,” she said. “They’re not going to do anything to help, anyways, so it’s no use in trying.”

However, Mayor Rick Andrews says it isn’t a matter of council not wanting to help people with water trouble – it’s a matter that they’re limited in what they can do, because of lack of resources.

Mayor Andrews says he recognizes that his town has problems with their water system. The reason, he said, is because of lack of pressure – and residents that live on higher elevation in the town are suffering because of it.

“We’ve got a three-inch line going into an eight-inch line right now,” he explained. “That isn’t giving us enough pressure, so we need to upgrade to a six-inch line, and replace the three-inch one.”

That’s something, the Mayor says, they’ve been trying to do for quite some time. In fact, they even have the line currently in place, ready to be installed, thanks to volunteers who carried the line on ski-doos and ran it from their Dam to their Pump house.

However, the town can’t afford to go any further on the project, because to do so, they need to reinforce their Dam, and buy a Water intake, at a cost of a little over $5,000 dollars.

The lumber to reinforce the dam, says the Mayor, is also in place thanks to volunteers. However, the town can’t afford the labor to do the work, and to buy the intake. Altogether, Mayor Andrews estimates the work will come to roughly $20,000 dollars.

That’s out of the question for the Town of Brent’s Cove to do on their own, says the mayor, since their municipal budget is less than $80,000 dollars a year.

“We’ve only got a small tax base, and our Operating Grant from the Government has been going in recent years to help pay down our debt.”

That debt was partially incurred eight years ago – the last time any major work was done on the town’s water system.

“We’re really limited in what we’ve got,” explained the Mayor. “We’re running on next to nothing, and when stuff like this comes up, we just don’t have the resources to handle it like it need to be handled.”

He says they’ve applied to the Provincial Government for emergency funding to help solve the problem with their water, but didn’t receive it.

MHA Kevin Pollard says Emergency funding isn’t the way to go in a situation like Brent’s Cove, because that money is designed for situations that need immediate attention, and often times there are more pressing matters than low water pressure.

The solution for this situation, he says, is an application for Municipal Capital Works – of which no such application has come across his desk from Brent’s Cove.

“Brent’s Cove has received funding in recent years from the Community Enhancement Program,” explained Mr. Pollard, “and that money has gone to address other concerns in the town. From my knowledge, though, I can’t recall an application for Capital Works, however, and if the town decides to submit one to address the water issue, I’ll certainly do what I can on their behalf.”

MHA Pollard says his office was working with the town this week and facilitated them getting some equipment from another community that would aid in finding a possible leak in their water lines.

Mayor Andrews says they hope that much will be done this summer, as well, when they receive their Gas tax money, to address infrastructure needs.

As for citizens who are concerned about the situation, he says, he reminds them that there’s currently a vacant position on council if anyone is interested.

Geographic location: Brent, Newfoundland and Labrador

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