BWA of the day
The long road to potable water in Wabana, NL
Wabana, a town on Bell Island just off the coast of Newfoundland was a thriving mining community until the iron ore mines were closed in 1966. Wabana's population started declining after World War II as the underground mines began to face shortfalls in production, being forced to compete with more efficient open pit mines in Labrador and Minnesota. Following their closure, the mines were left to flood and the population of Wabana continued declining.
The Community of some 2,400 was left with 75-year old groundwater wells and waterlines, stretching over 100 km.
Now with funding from the Federal and provincial governments, upgrades to the town's water infrastructure are slowly being done. On October 11, Newfoundland Environment lifted a 13-year old boil water advisory for parts of the water supply but on the whole most of the population is still under advisory due to cross connection problems on 7 of the 8 systems and inadequate water supplies.
According to our source, the water infrastructure recovery is taking place in stages and will take some time.
The first stage, evaluated at $1.5 million, is complete. Thanks to the addition of two wells a pump and a water tower and distribution lines, residents now have water flowing from their taps and can flush their toilets, which was not always the case. But they still cannot drink their tap water until the water supply is increased and the cross-connections are fixed.
Increasing the water supply is the next stage. Two more wells and another pumphouse are planned which will increase the water supply by 25%, allowing for the required bi-annual system flushing, currently impossible due to low water flows in the system.
As for fixing the cross-connections, the job is expected to be lengthy and costly.
Basically, a cross-connection is any physical connection between a public water system and any source of non-potable liquid, solid, or gas that could contaminate the potable water supply by backflow. In Wabana, anyone hooked to a water supply can currently syphon water from the system and risk contaminating it through backflow. To solve this issue, each of the community's 1,100 residences must be equipped with a check valve to stop backflow from occurring.
In the meantime, potable water is on the way with the addition of a Potable Water Dispensing Unit, a $370,000 investment by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador which will be cost-shared with the Town of Wabana.
Potable Water Dispensing Units are small-scale water treatment systems that pump and treat water from the municipal supply, store the treated water and allow residents to manually collect the water from a small shelter.
The systems offer an affordable solution to potable water issues and long-standing boil water advisories in small communities. So far, Fox Roost-Margaree; Isle aux Morts; Lawn; Leading Tickles; Makkovik; Mary’s Harbour; Point May; Postville; Rigolet; Seal Cove, Fortune Bay; and Whiteway have invested in the new dispensing systems.
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