Community working hard to thaw out pipes
As of Sunday more than half the people of Pigeon Cove-St. Barbe had running water restored to thier homes while locals continued working to bring the rest of the community back online.
Sam Gibbons, chair of the local service district, said Sunday that 28 houses had running water restored and they were working on another 23 but it wasn’t without a big effort from local people.
Albert Applin of Pigeon Cove resorted to melting snow to produce water for washing and flushing the toilet while the community had no running water.
— Photo by Adam Randell/ The Northern Pen
“The locals are all coming together and working on it everyday. And they’re pretty tired,” Gibbons said. “Every house. Every house you hook up you’re thankful.”
The water that was being hooked up was from an older water supply — an artesian well — that isn’t used anymore. It’s not for drinking. Consumable water is being supplied by the Red Cross, but having running water restored to homes is just as big of a benefit.
“The most important part is getting water for bathing and toilets and stuff,” said Gibbons.
More than 10 days ago, water to the homes in Pigeon Cove-St. Barbe stopped flowing when the pond water supply froze too deeply. Last week, the Dept. of Municipal Affairs had a plan to run more than a kilometre of pipe to the nearest good water supply. It was decided using the artesian well would be the quickest and best solution, even though it has a non-consumption order on it. However, the water main and the pipes to each house had frozen during the period when there was no water running through them. The town started thawing them out with Steam Jennys and other equipment provided by the provincial government.
“It’s misery being at it. Plain misery to be at this kind of stuff outside,” Gibbons said.
Jim Bennett, Liberal MHA for the area, blames the government for all the lines freezing. Bennett said Sunday they only froze when the water stopped flowing initially because Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Kent didn’t do anything for the first week and a half that there was no water in the area.
“As soon as the lines are free for sure, the province should be, or should have been, standing by with the overland line where there is a supply of water they had identified previously,” Bennett said Sunday.
Kent said the plan is for the town to revert to the existing water supply as soon as it thaws out and not use the overland pipe at all. He also contested the notion that the government hasn’t done enough, saying it has gone above and beyond to deal with a problem that’s usually a municipal matter.
“Our approach has been to work with the community to find solutions and we’ve done that.”
As for a longer-term solution, Kent said the town has been adamant about using the current water supply.
“We’d be happy to have discussions with the community about the future,” Kent said. “This really points to the needs for regional efforts. And I hope that communities in the area will talk to one another about what might be best in the long term.”
Meanwhile, Gibbons said the community is just hoping to put this behind it.
“Government is still working with us so we’re still being positive and doing our best to try and work with government to solve this. Then, hopefully, we’ll never have to deal with this kind of a situation never again.”
He isn’t sure how long it will take to get running water to the remaining houses, but the people are coping.
“They’re strong. They’re res-ourceful. People are holding up,” Gibbons said.