Flat Bay and Birchy Brook residents want quick solution to water problems

Frank Gale fgale@thewesternstar.com
Published on August 19, 2014
Harold Legge poses for a photo next to the water well in Birchy Brook, Flat Bay, that had to be abandoned due to it caving in.
Star photo by Frank Gale

Unacceptable and disrespectful.

Those were the words Brendan Sheppard of the Birchy Brook area of Flat Bay used to describe the lack of action on what he and others feel is an emergency situation in their small community.

Sheppard and 14 other families have now been without water for nearly three weeks. It’s his belief that this has to be treated as an emergency situation.

He said members of government are dragging their heels on the issue and, when it comes to an essential service, it should be attended to immediately.

Sheppard is one of the luckier ones — he and a relative who lives close by share a well, so they’re able to draw some water, but it’s hardly even enough to get a shower.

“You have to whistle a little tune, rather than sing a long song,” he quipped about the shower situation.

In relation to their community not being a local service district, Sheppard said the water system was put in while they didn’t have such an entity, so he questioned why government is not helping out now when they’re in this emergency situation.

He said his sister, Lucy Sheppard, who is now 77 years of age, bruised her leg while lugging water and said people, especially seniors, shouldn’t have to be doing this.

Harold Legge, who chairs the joint committee representing Birchy Brook and Flat Bay West, said the committee had a positive meeting with Tourism, Culture and Recreation Minister Tony Cornect and Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dan Crummell late last week.

He said he expects to receive word back from them later this week on whether or not government will provide help for the Birchy Brook area.

Legge said problems with the Birchy Brook system all took place as they were getting ready to turn soil for upgrades to the Flat Bay West water system, for which the community received a grant of $150,000 to carry out work.

He said the committee had to put that work on hold until it finds out if it will get extra funding to do Birchy Brook, where the well has caved in and is no longer usable. They managed to retrieve a $1,500 pump that had just been put down in that well.

Legge said the well is 28 years old and the water coming from it was undrinkable. He said the water even ruined clothes and turned bathtubs and sinks yellow and brown.

He believes government is finally starting to agree that hooking the Birchy Brook area into the Flat Bay West system is the quickest fix, but that’s going to take more money — an estimated $100,000 to $125,000.

Legge, 50, believes if such a water system were installed, that it would outlive him. It would require digging a ditch 1.4 kilometres in length, and he thinks that could be done in three or four days if there were no interruptions.

He said this is a crisis for those involved and, like Sheppard, said the sooner the money can be approved the better, especially with the school year about to begin.

Legge said residents of Flat Bay West already know their water fees are going to more than double from $150 to $360 a year, plus a $100 connection fee once the work is done. The increase will go towards the community’s portion that has to be paid for the work.

He said the same thing will apply to Birchy Brook if the money is approved to get them hooked into the Flat Bay West well, where he said they have ample water and even a spare well, if needed.