Labrador residents concerned over tap water quality

Published on January 14, 2014
Happy Valley-Goose Bay resident Carol Best left her tap running to prevent her water lines from freezing recently. Overnight, a white facecloth she put in the sink had turned brown. — Photo by Derek Montague/The Labradorian

Like most Labradorians have been doing during this extremely cold winter season, Carol Best began running water in her bathroom sink so the lines wouldn’t freeze up in her home.

To silence the noise of the running tap, Best put a white facecloth inside the sink overnight on Jan. 3. When she woke up the next morning, she was shocked by what she saw.

“When I got up, I saw that the facecloth changed from white to this brown (colour), with this big brown spot where the water had been running,” said Best.

“I was grossed out.”

Best doesn’t know why her cloth turned into a brownish colour, but it has renewed longstanding concerns that she has about the water quality in her area.

Best lives in the Valley and gets her water from the Well Field that was hooked up in 2002. Ever since then, Best has noticed a big change in the taste, smell, and overall quality of the tap water.

“We use a Brita so that I can purify the stuff. But you’re exposed to it every way; you bathe and you wash your dishes and you cook in it,” said Best.

“I don’t agree with bottled water; that’s something I do at a minimum because I don’t agree with the waste.”

Best works uptown, and her office building is connected to the Spring Gulch water source. She notices a big difference between the Spring Gulch water and the water she gets from her home.

“I drink the water up there and actually bring some home with me in bottles,” said Best.

“There’s always been something different with the water down here than up above. So I’m hoping that the new (Town) Council will look at this seriously.”

Indeed, there is something different between the two water sources in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

According to Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Environment and Conservation’s latest samples, the Well Field has a higher trihalomethanes (THM) level than Spring Gulch.

THMs are disinfection byproducts that are formed when chlorine is added to water. According to the Department of Environment and Conservation website,” new epidemiological (human) studies had been published which reported associations between THMs and bladder and colon cancer, and adverse pregnancy outcomes including miscarriage, birth defects and low birth weight.”

The national guideline for THM levels in water supplies is 100 micrograms per litre (ug/l). The Well Field in Happy Valley is slightly over that mark, with 100.70 ug/l, while the spring gulch has a THM level of 63.78.

Besides the difference in taste and smell, Best, like many other Valley residents, said the water plays havoc with plumbing and other fixtures.

She said her household has gone through six or seven hot water tanks since 2002. Prior to the Well Field hookup, Best said they had the same tank for more than 10 years.

After discovering the discolouration with her washcloth, Best took her complaints to Facebook, where other residents shared similar complaints with her.

The Happy Valley-Goose Bay Town Council quickly responded on social media, saying that it will be hiring an independent chemist to look into the matter.

“This issue is actively being worked on by the Municipal Services Committee of Council and it’s chair, Councillor Shannon Tobin,” says the official statement.

“In the last council meeting a motion was passed whereby Council would seek to hire an independent chemist to test the water of our town. The intent for this is to get both a comprehensive analysis of the water systems that are present and to get recommendations as to how to address the concerns of residents.

“We hope that hiring an independent chemist will give staff the knowledge necessary to address the issues that many people are identifying as a concern even though their water is still considered safe to drink.”

The Labradorian