Pigeon Cove in crisis

Russell Cochrane
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Community brought to standstill by frozen water supply

For almost six days, the people of Pigeon Cove on the Northern Peninsula have been without water services. The town’s water source became inaccessible to the pumping station when the shallow pond became completely frozen.

Albert Applin’s pipes haven’t produced water for the last six days. The 83-year-old Pigeon Cove resident has relied on melting snow to produce water for washing and flushing the toilet. — Photo by Adam Randell/ The Northern Pen

They’ve declared a state of emergency in Pigeon Cove, and Frank Beaudoin, a member of the local service district committee, said he doesn’t think the government is moving fast enough.

“We’re not getting anything done, b’y,” he said. “The minister was saying that they were working on it today and they’ll be working on it tomorrow, but I don’t think they’re working very fast.”

Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Kent said the government has been working closely with contractors and engineering staff toward a solution and have considered options ranging from temporary above-ground water lines to water tanks and the creative use of the town’s fire truck.

“All these things are being actively explored, and we are going to continue to explore them,” he said.

“We just need to come up with a solution that is likely to work and these options aren’t without risk — some of them aren’t even feasible.”

He said that overnight freezing ruled out many options including the use of temporary water lines which would face the same cold conditions which caused the problem.

Later Monday afternoon, Kent tweeted that a temporary solution has been found and that crews will be on site later today.

But Liberal MHA Jim Bennett, who represents the area, sees the continued crisis as a failure of the government.

“The only people to have looked at it have been the guys from the local service district and when they were asked to come up with some sort of solution, they did, and that was a tanker truck,” he said.

“The contractor was available last Thursday to drive up from Mount Pearl with a 5,000-gallon tank and a tanker and to tap into the line of supply that would have let residents have water.”

Bennett said the disruption in water services is causing problems for the community, and it’ll likely get worse if a solution isn’t found soon.

“The arena’s closure has been a big deal for a lot of people because they’ve just lost the weekend … since they haven’t been able to operate without water,” he said.

“The motel had a construction crew there, but they had to send them to another establishment — to a competitor — so that they have a place to stay and on Wednesday, they’re expecting a basketball tournament in the area and the motel is booked full for several days and, of course, they’ll lose that if they don’t get their water back.”

Bennett said he felt there was a solution lined up, but the provincial government would not move to make it happen.

“The contractor waited all through Thursday, all through Friday and with no call from the department, he sent his guys home,” he said.

“I telephoned him on Saturday mid-day ... and he was absolutely astounded because he thought, since he didn’t hear back from them, that they must have gotten somebody else for a different solution, but there was no solution and they were just completely abandoned.”

Kent said that option wouldn’t work.

“The tank option has been explored with a third-party provider ... but they have not been able to secure one as of yet,” he said.

“It wouldn’t be an insulated tank and there are still logistical issues that need to be sorted out in terms of charging the water system and inserting a connection into the water system.”

He said that they’ve provided 50 cases of bottled water to the town.

“There is no immediate or easy solution: that’s the reality of it,” he said. “Our first priority was ensuring that residents have access to drinking water — that had to be an immediate priority, but since then we’ve been working on a number of potential solutions.”

The deep freeze for the Northern Peninsula town came shortly after an investment of roughly a million dollars in 2013 to replace the town’s old water supply system.

According to Bennett, when the system was replaced, it was moved to a shallower area of the same pond and installed without removing the sediment and weeds at the bottom, which left it prone to freezing.

rbcochrane@mun.ca

Twitter: @Rssllcochrane

Geographic location: Pigeon Cove, Mount Pearl, Northern Peninsula

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