Water, water everywhere, and all the drops do stink

‘I almost vomited,’ says Bell Island resident

Daniel MacEachern dmaceachern@thetelegram.com
Published on March 14, 2016
Discoloured water in Lisa Gear’s washing machine.
Submitted photo

A Bell Island resident wants to know why her drinking water is discoloured and smelly.

“When my husband cut into the water tank, I almost vomited,” Lisa Gear told The Telegram on Monday.

For Gear and her husband, the problem began when the moved into their house in November.

“When we moved here, we notced the stains around the bathtub. Our bathtub was stained yellow, our toilet was stained yellow,” she said. “We had to use this iron-remover stuff to clean, to make it look nice. And every couple of days I had to use the same stuff to clean out residue.”

It was annoying, but tolerable, she said, until Christmas, when water drawn for a bath splashed out dirty yellow.

Gear found the same problem with her washer — “the washer was completely disgusting” — so she called Wabana Mayor Gary Gosine, who said the town would flush out the water lines. That improved the colouration somewhat, but the problem worsened again about a week ago, and now the water smells, she says.

“The smell was unbearable. Every time we used our hot water, the smell would knock you backwards,” she said. “It was rancid. It was like almost rotten eggs — very strong, disgusting.”

That was when the couple decided to replace the water heater, even though theirs was only five years old.

“When my husband drained it, it came out the colour of dark coffee,” she said. “I was really upset. This is gross. This is what we wash in.”

She consulted a water engineer, who told her it was the worst hot water tank he’d ever seen.

“It looked like a septic tank, not a hot-water tank,” said Gear.

The engineer told her Bell Island’s water infrastructure needs a complete overhaul — Wabana has been under a boil-water advisory for years — and that the island’s pipes aren’t strong enough to handle the flushing necessary to clear up the problem.

After Gear took to the web to complain about her water troubles, which she said other people in her area have also been experiencing, she said Gosine called her to rebuke her for it, and said the town is replacing a pumphouse, but Gear said he admitted that likely wouldn’t solve her problem.

“So I’m meant to be patient and wait, but he doesn’t expect to get any more provincial help or capital funds, because they have money that they’re waiting to use on some other water issue that will never fix my pipes,” she said.

Gosine requested time to review the situation and asked The Telegram to call back Monday afternoon.

“I’d rather you ask me this afternoon because I’ll go to our work superintendent. Today is a holiday, it’s not a good day,” he said. “You give me a call this afternoon, and I want to brief myself on some of this stuff and I should be more familiar when you’re asking me questions.”

But on Monday afternoon, Gosine asked for more time and said he’d call back by noon Tuesday.

“If it’s a problem going on for months, you’re telling me that you can’t wait for, I don’t know what it is, 15 hours or something?” said Gosine, who denied asking The Telegram to call back Monday afternoon. “I didn’t say that, sir. … I told you to call me back in the morning.”

Gosine said he wasn’t prepared to discuss the issue Monday.

“I’m waiting for two plumbers to get back to work tomorrow morning, and then I can give you my side of the story, so that’s not asking too much,” he said. “If I give you my side now, I’m not giving you everything that I should know.”

 

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com, Twitter: @DanMacEachern