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Attempts to rid one south coast town of its water quality issues has led to some political fallout.
As reported in an article published Wednesday in The Western Star, Milltown in Bay d’Espoir was one of two communities in which Ottawa-based company SanEcoTec has conducted a pilot project of its AVIVE water treatment system.
The company’s system uses hydrogen peroxide, rather than chlorine, to disinfect water before it is consumed. Whereas chlorination can cause harmful disinfection byproducts such as trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs), hydrogen peroxide simply breaks down into water and oxygen.
Milltown engaged SanEcoTec in 2017 and the AVIVE system was installed last December. After months of trials and tribulations, the town council voted to discontinue the system in August and reverted back to using chlorine.
Jerry Kearley had been the mayor who championed the AVIVE system to improve the town’s water quality, which exceeded Health Canada’s standards for both THMs and HAAs.
He was out of town when the rest of council passed the motion to cease using the AIVE system, just seven days before it was to be officially certified as the town’s new method for water treatment.
“I was pissed,” said Kearley, who immediately resigned.
Mayor Georgina Ball, who had been deputy mayor until Kearley’s resignation, said the town was worried about the ongoing operational costs of the system.
“We couldn’t get it to work and we had people bitching and complaining,” said Ball, noting people’s laundry was being discoloured by the water coming from the newly treated method.
Both Kearley and SanEcoTec explained that, the issues encountered had to do with the town’s aging infrastructure and not the technology.
The discolouration was the result of both dirt and buildup on the water pipes from exposure to chlorine that was now being cleaned off by the hydrogen peroxide.
The issue was expected to eventually improve as the accumulation was removed.
Ball said the town would require three or four barrels of hydrogen peroxide per month and that cost was not sustainable for the residents of Milltown, who number fewer than 800.
Rob Abernethy, SanEcoTec’s director for new business development and professional water engineer, said the town may be using three barrels per month but that requirement would be reduced as the distribution system was cleansed and the hydrogen peroxide was spent on the water and not the infrastructure.
Kearley said the town had capped its operational costs at $98,000 per year and that the goal was to eventually reduce that amount by 40 to 60 per cent as the system became more efficient.
SanEcoTec said, given the town would be saving between $20,000 to $30,000 on chlorine costs, the potential extra costs for safer drinking water would be affordable at around $60,000.
“It would be around the cost of one cup of coffee per resident every week,” said Els Vanbeckevoort, SanEcoTec’s chief executive officer.
Kearley doesn’t drink chlorinated water and gets his from a nearby spring. He hopes the town will eventually realize this sort of system is worth the money.
“I was hoping we would be able to say we have the best water in Newfoundland,” he said. “Instead, we’re back to drinking bog water.”
SanEcoTec’s AVIVE system has been approved for use by communities in Newfoundland and Labrador because of its pilot projects in Milltown and Sunnyside in Trinity Bay.
Vanbeckevoort said the fact Milltown has discontinued using the AVIVE system has not jeopardized that approval because the provincial government’s regulators still managed to receive sufficient data from the time the system was being used in Milltown.