Down the drain

Town seeking provincial cash to solve water woes

Terri Saunders
Published on December 6, 2012
Matt Molloy/The Beacon

The Town of Gander is looking for some cash from the provincial government to address problems with the municipal water supply.

In recent weeks, tests conducted on some water lines in certain parts of town, particularly in newly-developed areas in the north part of Gander off Magee Road, have turned up nearly undetectable levels of chlorine.

In October, rumours were swirling around town regarding the quality of municipal water, with some people writing messages on social media websites suggesting not only the water going to some homes was contaminated with E. coli bacteria, but that Town officials were deliberately keeping the issue under wraps.

Town staff took the unusual step of issuing a public response to the rumours, assuring residents there was no truth to either suggestion.

At the time, James Blackwood, director of municipal works, told The Beacon testing on some portions of the water system had resulted in non-detectable chlorine levels, and there were indications there was some “bacteriological regrowth” but no sign of E. coli.

The solution the Town came up with was to bump up chlorination in the wake of the test results. Mr. Blackwood said, following the problem being addressed in this manner, further testing was carried out and the Town was given the “all clear.”

At a council meeting held Nov. 28, the chairperson of the municipal works and services committee said the issues related to the non-detectable chlorine levels is ongoing, and the Town is looking to the provincial government for a little help.

“(There are) two ongoing projects on which the Town was seeking emergency funding from the Department of Municipal Affairs,” said Councillor Rob Anstey. “The committee reviewed correspondence from the (Town) to the minister of Municipal Affairs (Kevin O’Brien) indicating that the Town of Gander was having problems with the water distribution network.”

New infrastructure

Coun. Anstey said it’s likely the Town will need to invest in some new infrastructure to combat the problem, and helping to cover the cost of such a project is where Municipal Affairs comes in.

“It has become increasingly difficult to obtain chlorine residuals in the outer portions of town, and the Town has engaged engineering services to help address the problem,” he said. “(We) will be exploring the possibility of installing a chlorine booster station to combat this issue.”

Coun. Anstey said talks are also ongoing with the province in order to secure funding to assist with the installation of an expanded sewage treatment facility in the same part of town.

“A short-term need was discussed for an expansion to the capacity of the sewage treatment plant on Magee Road to enable future growth of the Town of Gander,” he said, “as well as combat odour issues being experienced in that section of town during summer months.”

In response to the initial rumours about water quality, the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, Jake Turner, suggested numerous tests conducted on Gander’s water supply in recent months indicate there are no health hazards related to the consumption of municipal water.

“The latest drinking water testing results received from the provincial government … show that the water meets all of the criteria of the Canadian Drinking Water Standards,” Mr. Turner wrote on the social media website. “It is not in the interest of the Town council to ‘hush up’ any issues that could negatively effect the health of our citizens.”

Coun. Anstey said consultants are being asked to assist the Town in coming up with a solution to the chlorination problem.

“The consultant … hired by the Town is going to help the Town prepare a (request for proposal) for a short-term solution to address these issues, while the Town prepares to construct a new wastewater treatment facility.”

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