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
UPDATE: Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Kent told Transcontinental Media late Monday that contractors will be on the ground in Pigeon Cove-St. Barbe by end of day Tuesday to try and restore water service to the two communities.
Kent said that the province has authorized funds for a temporary fix and the cost could be in excess of $100,000.
The two communities have been without water since last Wednesday when the water around the intake on Long Pond froze.
Kent didn't elaborate on what the temporary fix will involve.
For six days, Samuel Gibbons has been dragging buckets of water from his parents’ home in Forresters Point to his home in St. Barbe.
St. Barbe and neighbouring Pigeon Cove have been without water since last Wednesday when the intake to the combined communities’ water supply system in Long Pond froze. The lack of water resulted in the two Northern Peninsula communities of 45 to 50 homes being declared in a state of emergency.
Gibbons is the chairperson of the local service district that governs the two communities.
“It’s very serious,” he said of the situation when contacted by phone Monday morning.
Gibbons said everything was fine with the water when he went to bed last Tuesday night. He got up at 4 a.m. and still had water.
“Six o’clock, there was no water and we haven’t seen any since.”
This past summer, Gibbons said the province installed a “beautiful” $1-million water system in Long Pond. He said the problem is not with the system itself.
“The problem is the intake for the system is not located in deep enough water.
“I guess they didn’t allow for our climate, our temperatures,” said Gibbons of the engineers who worked on the project.
The local service district doesn’t have the money needed to fix the problem, so it has to rely on government to find a solution.
But Gibbons is frustrated that solution is not coming fast enough.
“We want a fix right now,” he said.
Among the solutions he thinks may work are bringing in a pumper truck filled with water that could then be moved to tanks which could be hooked into the water system.
There’s also the possibility of pumping water from a nearby pond into the system.
“They know it’s a state of emergency and there’s no action,” said Gibbons. “You think that if someone is in a state of emergency in this province there should be something, government should have something in place, some kind of contingency plan in place that’s going to deal with that, especially when you’re dealing with communities who have no money to deal with that.”
Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Kent understands the frustrations, but he said the province is doing everything it can to assist the people affected and to find a solution to the problem.
The Canadian Red Cross and officials with Kent’s departments of Fire and Emergency Services and Advanced Education and Skills are involved in the effort. Kent added the province is working with outside companies that could provide solutions.
“Our first priority was ensuring that residents had sufficient drinking water and once that was addressed our focus shifted to figuring out how we could possibly restore water services to the residents and businesses,” he said.
“We want to find a solution.”
He said all possible options and the risks associated with each will be explored and would only say he hopes to have definitive answers soon.
“We need to do it right,” said Kent. “It’s important that we carefully examine the options and make decisions that are most likely to be successful.”
Right now he said the company the province is working with hasn’t secured a pumper truck that could be used, and if it does the province would still need to charge the system to connect to the pumper, requiring digging and further assessment.
Another option, said Kent, involves the use of the communities’ fire truck. The truck can hold 1,500 gallons of water and could be refilled from a nearby community.
Although, he said, running a line over land to another body of water has been done in the past, it hasn’t been done in these conditions where overnight freezing could be an issue.
Meanwhile, Gibbons said the situation is hard on residents and they’re coping as best they can.
“They’re doing whatever they can to keep water in their houses.”
That includes hauling it from the neighbouring communities of Black Duck Cove and Forresters Point and melting the snow.
“But that’s not enough. We need water coming though our faucets”