Water watch: Burgeo residents protest possibility of water meters

The idea of installing water meters in Burgeo has many residents protesting.

Residents say water pipes are old and leak, and some homes need to run water in winter to stop freezing

On Aug. 16, residents of Burgeo protested outside a closed town council meeting to show their disagreement with installing water meters. (Facebook/Steven Hiscock)

Many residents of Burgeo are upset with the idea of having water meters installed, and monitored, by the town.

The town's eight-step water plan — which included hiring a part-time water monitor to work with residents — was adopted during a May council meeting. Last week, residents took their concerns outside a closed council meeting in protest.

"One of the main reasons people are really upset is because [council members] always put the cart before the horse," said protest organizer Helen Swift, who's also running for a seat on council in the September municipal elections.

"The water system here is not great at best. Two years prior to the new system, we were always on a boil order. Our water always had to be boiled, it's like pond water," Swift told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

"Now it's gone through a new system … and they are now measuring the gallons per minute all the time to find out how much water is being used in town, but one of our biggest problems is we have a very old infrastructure, and the pipes are old and rusty and leaking. We have many major leaks in town."

Do they plan on coming by when you're having showers?- Helen Swift

In addition to the new water plan, the mayor of Burgeo has started sending out monthly reports on how much water is being used.

Swift said in the winter many people have to run water to prevent their pipes from freezing, which results in higher usages. 

"And they want to come in and monitor the water. Now, it's been brought to the town and [we] said 'Ok. If the monitor adjusts your water and leaves and your water freezes, is the town liable?' And we've been told 'No,'" Swift said.

Making a 'bit of noise'

Swift said the Aug. 16 protest was a peaceful one, despite demonstrators banging on the side of the building.

"I mean you get 40-50 people tapping a building, you can make a bit of noise. And they were just making the noise and chanting 'Hey ho, water meters got to go,'" she said of the Aug. 16 protest.

"It was a very peaceful demonstration, you know. There was nothing broken, nothing damaged ... no physical contact with anyone."

Swift said a town monitoring its residents' water usage is "very unusual" and she estimated that 90 per cent of the residents are against having water meters on their homes.

"Water [monitoring] is kind of an invasion of your privacy … and to send someone into your home to [dictate] how much water you can use, like, seriously?" Swift said.

"Do they plan on coming by when you're having showers?"

With files from the St. John's Morning Show