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Howley declares state of emergency as water supply has run dry

George Stone, an on-call maintenance worker for the Town of Howley, works on the town’s water distribution system Monday morning
George Stone, an on-call maintenance worker for the Town of Howley, works on the town’s water distribution system Monday morning - Submitted

Howley Mayor Wayne Bennett was hoping to find out what is blocking his town’s water supply intake Monday evening.

As of deadline, the town was awaiting the arrival of a dive team with capability to work after dark to identify and correct the issue that led to a state of emergency declaration Monday afternoon.

The declaration was deemed necessary after an emergency town council meeting to deal with the issue of the water supply having run dry.

An alarm sounding Sunday night was the first indication there was a problem with the water storage facility fed by Grand Lake. Upon investigation, it was discovered there was hardly a drop left in the storage tanks and the system’s pumps were running feverishly hot trying to get more water from the lake.

The distribution system had to be turned off, leaving the town’s folks with no water to drink, wash or flush toilets.

Town officials spent Monday morning troubleshooting the system. They cut through the ice and used an underwater camera. It was discovered there was some sort of blockage at the intake.

“The camera we were using wasn’t quite good enough to determine the nature of the blockage, so it’s not clear yet what the obstruction is,” Bennett explained later in the day.

The first plan of attack was to put some water into the tanks and pump it back out to see if the blockage in the lines could be flushed out. However, the portable pumps at the town’s disposal were not working properly and the town was awaiting delivery of a better machine Monday evening.

Bennett said the state of emergency was called for two main reasons. First, it will give the town some extra enforcement capability should anyone try to use their water when requested not to do so as the town tries to flush the system.

Second, a prior agreement with the Deer Lake Fire Department has been put into effect to have that entity on standby should any emergency situation arise in town while it has no capability to combat a fire.

“Who would have thought a town on the side of a 70-mile long lake would run out of water?” Bennett asked earlier Monday, alluding to the size of Grand Lake.

The town was supplying bottled water to residents Monday.

A Howley-based contractor, Mike Kelly and Sons, was going around to homes with the water truck it normally uses for road-paving projects, filling water buckets for residents so they could have water to flush toilets.

“It’s great to have a company like that in this town right now,” said the mayor.

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