MNL Water Session (Gander) 6 Nov/09 12

MNL Water Session (Gander)
6 Nov/09
7 people
Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) hold an annual convention each year where
representatives from municipalities across the province gather to discuss various issues. This year, the
Harris Centre coordinated with MNL to hold a session specifically on rural drinking water issues. MNL
contacted delegates and invited them to attend the session in Gander. David Yetman and Karen Follett
travelled to Gander to meet with these invited representatives. The session was the first regarding the
Harris Centre RBC Water Research and Outreach Fund. The purpose of the session was to introduce the
Fund and open a discussion about issues around drinking water for communities in Newfoundland and
Labrador. Below is a summary of issues brought forward through that discussion.
Communities represented: Bay Bulls, St. Anthony, Springdale, Steady Brook, CBS, Stephenville
(and a rep from ACOA)
Brown water & public perception of quality of water due to colour
Public perception that everything is OK even if boil order. Water comes from pristine place and
people tend to believe in its safety
Convenience factor and social values around water & sewage
People need to understand they can have whatever they want as long as they are willing to pay
for it. Municipal government is a government but can only do so much based on what resources
they have.
Culture of NL of people expecting Gov’t to pay – though got to look at it as what suits
community that you’re in.
Rural vs. Urban – need to look at expectations of those moving into community. Eg. those
moving into CBS expect water/sewer/fire/etc. Closer you live to urban centre, the more people
expect services. Is there a disadvantage to saying “no”? Could prevent one demographic but
may encourage another one.
Assumptions – are we assuming it’s always possible to get good water? What are people’s
Are we losing sight of our pristine environment that we should feel lucky to have?
NL stewards of fresh water for supply for future. Sell it or keep it? Responsibility?
Old views vs. new ideas. Leadership & vision.
Community Development
Necessity to quantify that water is good is big for municipalities
As communities grow – fabric of the community changes. Development pressures type of
system you use.
Density of population (Rural vs. Urban) means lots of extra problems like salt and runoff
(hydrology). Is it the developers’ role or municipality? Zoning & bylaws can help protect this (eg.
control a certain area as ‘rural’)
Future planning – eg. Steady Brook has just applied for funding from gov’t to drill test wells to
try to find water.
New development – people moving in often go into an area and cut down all the trees which
cause way more problems than people realize. More need for education around environmental
How do developers market beauty of property to potential buyers? Has perception of beauty
Community growth is faster than funding/planning can keep up. Existing water systems cannot
support population growth with the money in current budgets. Eg. St. Anthony originally
planned for 1300 people and now at 2700.
Gravity flow water (Springdale) and other areas on wells (5%). Water tested daily basis everyday
and generally drinking water is good and respected
Replacement of infrastructure usually means when it breaks = main reason is money. More
reactive than proactive. Critical care first = cure not prevention.
Water pressure at high points (eg. summer in St. Anthony when shrimp plant and hospital online
takes water away from residents)
Water ban in St. John’s affects CBS – little concern over consulting with nearby areas before
installing ban
Infrastructure – pipes for water transport incl. Diversity/differences in infrastructure in a single
Bay Bulls: 800 people $25M work of infrastructure = problem in paying taxes to pay for this.
Thought needs to be paid to think of solutions that are cost-effective for citizens. Gov’t cut back
money so all alternative systems need to be investigated. Direct sewage line to harbour is not
good enough. Maintenance, financing plan, revenue, etc.
Funding = municipalities & gov’t (though municipalities are gov’t). Why do we need gov’t to say
it’s OK. What works for one community may not work for another. Rationalizing – need to figure
out if community needs it first and funding should come second. Are we getting into problems
that will need to be fixed down the road – ie. more expensive in the future.
Stephenville has town wells (well field) with lots of capacity to expand and still have good water.
But there is a private well people use to get “good water” because there are some with a
perception of town water & there are sometimes problems with reverse flow, mineral build-up
(calcium) but town is happy they got away from surface water system.
Well field system is low maintenance (Stephenville has two staff people only – trained & there
are separate inspectors) and when the town is re-doing streets they replace pipes as they go.
Increased water rate from $19 to $20/month and no one seemed to mind or raise concerns. All
costs have gone up so municipal services are the same.
Governance issues – systems often already exist but aren’t being maintained. Many
municipalities refuse to put chlorine in water because they don’t like the smell but people may
get sick = need to educate people (users and municipalities) on the health benefits & risks.
Individuals can install UV or other measures in their own houses. Can also decrease their
consumption to decrease demand (not unlimited water)
How to budget risk?
More than 300 boil orders in NL
Springdale infrastructure is 60 yrs old and there are worries over asbestos. Cherry Cres. Has 25
people died of Cancer and there are fears it could be water/pipe-related or transformer-related.
Town is now faced with major maintenance problem with things to fix everyday...need to put
into 5-yr plan that things need major updates everywhere.
Political nature of how to make a decision around these major issues. Legal issues need to be
considered too – legal risk and liability.
Provincial guidelines & acceptable levels in Canada and elsewhere. Need more information out
there on standards, norms and guidelines.
Innovative solutions for communities – need better mousetrap for communities. Eg CBS
manufactures its own chlorine so it doesn’t have to buy it.
Human resources – are there problems around having people, having enough people, having
enough training, etc.? No one around the table seem to have problems with human resources.
Even now at the 90/10 split there are municipalities that cannot pay the 10%. Communities are
starting to cut corners and scale back to make ends meet.
Past & history.