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Water Today Title August 7, 2020

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Advisory of the Day



This story is brought to you in part by Lawson Mills Biomass Solutions Ltd

The town of Howley in Western Newfoundland is four days into a state of emergency that was declared on Monday due to a water shortage. The town of just over 200 people gets their water from Sandy Lake. The problem started on Sunday night when a red light on the outside of the town pump house indicated an issue.

It is assumed that a valve in the intake pipe may have seized tight, making it impossible for water to get to the pump house. By Monday the town's water reserves had completely run out. Bottled water was made available to residents and volunteers came out in large numbers to help seniors that make up roughly 40% of the town's population, by bringing them buckets of water to flush their toilets with.

On Tuesday, Bailey's Marine services attempted to hoist the intake out of the lake but thin ice made that difficult. Instead, a 4 inch pump and bypass hose were installed by taking a sledgehammer through the wall of the pump house. Residents were able to get some water, but by Wednesday morning the pump had failed and the town was once again out of water.

That same day one of the two pumps was back online and the tank was full but later the control panel blew a fuse in pump house and was temporarily fixed but they won't get someone in until next week for a more permanent fix. In the mean time Howley RV Park, the only place in town with running water, is letting people use their shower/washroom facilities that are hooked to a private well supplied by streams.

Later on Wednesday evening, Mayor Wayne Ronald Bennet announced that the state of emergency would be extended another 48 hours set to end Saturday, February 3 at 8:00am. Thursday morning Mayor Wayne Ronald Bennet tweeted, "town re-installing it's 4 inch pump to connect to 4 inch coupling to old filtration for limited water supply."

Town Clerk Nancy Howel said at 2pm Thursday, "at the moment we do have a couple of engineers down there having a look at the situation. I'm waiting to hear anything ... there hasn't been any news since this morning. As far as I know they had one pump so that people could flush toilets ... it's hit and miss."

Howel said the town was able to speak with representatives at Premier Dwight Ball's office Wednesday night and again Thursday morning through which it was decided that engineers would be sent to try and find a solution. They are actively working on resolving the problem.

When asked if the town still had a good supply of bottled water, Howel said "we got another shipment in today. There's 160 4 L bottles for those who need it and people can bring back their bottles to have them re-filled with stream water. We also had 7 or 8 cases of 24 personal water bottles, and I think about 25 to 30 18 L bottles that were available." Stream water is not potable and does have to be boiled before consumption.

Older residents have commented that Sandy Lake is at the lowest level they can remember. When asked why that might be, this reporter was put on speaker phone to have a longtime resident explain. They explained that while water does get diverted for the Deer Lake Power Plant owned by Kruger Energy, they don't believe this is the cause.

They said, "Kruger has been taking water from here for years but even last year, the water was high. There is not a lot of snow pack and not much rain. Usually we have 6 feet snow banks, there has also been temperature fluctuation, that has been hurting us too. It's never really refilled itself to have enough water." The heavy rains that caused major flooding two weeks ago for communities like Corner Brook and Fisherman Cove, located on either side of Howley, left the town itself pretty much untouched.

Howel said, "it's the first time we've had something this major. And where the intake is, it has eight feet water on top so there's no worry that about an actual water shortage, it's not a lack of water in the lake issue. It's more of an old infrastructure, with some newer part trying to work altogether, and it had enough and shut down basically."

In regards to the bought of bad luck the town has had in trying to fix the water issue, Howel said "it's been one step ahead, ten back. It's been trying, but we are still making sure that everything is working and everyone is good."

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