A necessity, a right

George Macvicar
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Is our drinking water safe? Not in many of the communities in Newfoundland and Labrador apparently.

There are just over 300 communities in this province and according to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador web site there are some 182 communities with ‘boil water orders’ in place.

That’s almost 60 per cent of the communities!

And on top of that, in recent weeks 15 communities had their boil orders lifted.

On the Burin Peninsula alone, there are 17 communities faced with similar boil orders.

Seven of the towns – Baine Harbour, Grand le Pierre, Little Harbour East, Little St. Lawrence, North Harbour, Jean de Baie and Petit Forte – had these orders instituted in the mid to late nineties, some 15 years or more.

It’s difficult to determine what percentage of the population is faced with inadequate drinking water in 60 per cent of our communities. Granted, many of these communities are small but numbers do add up.

Centres like St. John’s, Clarenville, Gander, Grand Falls-Windsor, Deer Lake, Corner Brook and Stephenville on the island are large enough to afford to have adequate, safe drinking water and one would think the main centres on the Burin Peninsula do not have to observe boil orders.

But that’s not the case. After more than $12 million for a water treatment plant and almost five years of planning and construction the Town of Marystown was hit with a boil order Aug. 10.

Why? According to the Department of Environment and Conservation website ‘Inadequately treated water was introduced into the system due to fire flows, flushing operations, interconnections, minor power outage or other pressure loss’.

The boil order was in effect all last week.

The provincial government is emphasizing safe and clean drinking water as a major priority. However, with the number of boil order advisories now in place and the large numbers that have been in force for a decade or more, this government has failed miserably in giving its residents a basic right – healthy drinking water.

There was an entrepreneur in Grand Bank about a decade ago who was promoting water purification systems developed in Scotland, whereby for a few hundred thousand dollars a community could receive safe and clean drinking water utilizing a proven procedure. However, the government did little to encourage local communities or financially support them to install this or a similar system.

Granted it is a costly venture to install good drinking water in communities, but it’s a legitimate cost to provide one of the necessities of life. And to allow some residents to live in their communities without safe drinking water for 15 years or more is inexcusable.

Organizations: Department of Environment and Conservation, Grand Bank

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Baine Harbour, Little Harbour East North Harbour Clarenville Deer Lake Corner Brook Marystown Scotland

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