Municipal Affairs Minister Eddie Joyce says his department has been assisting the Town of Howley right from the get-go and will keep helping until the town’s water troubles have been solved.
The town started having trouble with its water distribution system when an alarm sounded late Sunday. By Monday morning the entire system was shut down because of low levels in the reservoir and, by that afternoon, a state of emergency had been declared.
On Wednesday, after water service had been partially restored, Mayor Wayne Bennett posted on Twitter that the town would have welcomed a visit from the minister responsible at some point in the previous 72 hours.
Joyce, the liberal legislature member for Humber-Bay of Islands, said Thursday that he was going to go to Howley after he arrived back home in western Newfoundland Wednesday evening, but never because at that point water had been restored.
The water service was eventually lost again later Wednesday evening.
“I’ll go there this afternoon if they want me to, but we have the experts on the ground in place there who can help,” Joyce said in an interview early Thursday afternoon.
The minister said his department, along with the constituency office of Premier Dwight Ball — whose district of Humber-Gros Morne includes Howley — have been working with the town ever since the first reports of trouble with the water system.
For Joyce’s department, this would include offering water resources expertise and other technical advice, along with assistance from Fire and Emergency Services NL.
“This is a situation where we have been heavily involved, but the town has been doing a wonderful job dealing with the situation,” Joyce said. “The town and its volunteer fire department are to be commended.”
The town had hoped to lift the state of emergency when it was due to expire Thursday morning, but it had to be extended to at least Saturday morning after service was shut down again Wednesday.
The town had managed to get one of its two pumps back up and running, but that pump has also malfunctioned.
Thursday morning, the town was able to put another temporary fix in place that would allow enough water to flow to properties so they could sparingly flush toilets.
Later in the day, representatives from Western Pump Services — a service and repair company based in Norris Point — and from the engineering firm SNC Lavalin were on the scene to offer more assistance to the situation.
Submersible pumps were also en route to Howley from St. John’s.
The community centre in Howley was re-opened as a warming centre and residents were asked to ensure the electrical supply to their hot water tanks was shut off during the crisis.
The town has been offering bottled drinking water, stockpiled at the community centre, to residents and has been delivering water for flushing toilets and washing.
Joyce said the town has been told to do whatever is necessary to restore the full service and to submit any emergency assistance claims to his department.
A request for an interview with the premier, as the town’s MHA, was requested Thursday, but he was out of the province and his constituency office was handling the assistance being offered.
In a post on Facebook attributed to the premier Thursday afternoon, Ball noted his district office has been in regular contact with the town and echoed Joyce’s sentiments about working together towards a solution.
“I understand the stress this issue is causing for the residents of Howley,” the premier’s message read. “We are all working towards restoring water to the community as soon as possible.”
As of late Thursday evening, Howley officials announced a temporary dependable water supply had been established while stressing that residents be cognizant of their water use through the town’s Facebook page.
“We are working on a one-pump system, where we normally have two,” it read. “Parts are ordered and en route to effect repairs to the water line and foot valve. Once repairs to water line have been completed, the damaged pump will be taken out to be repaired.
“Until this is done and the pump is again put back in service, we are not at 100 per cent capacity.”
The post continued to say that the Reverse Osmosis water dispenser at the community centre is open and available to residents.
There is no timeframe for when these repairs will be carried out and completed.