The town of Torbay has been looking for a new water supply, but the pond that was being considered has been polluted by operations at St. John's International Airport.

South Pond, the body of water in question, is less than one kilometre from North Pond, the location where the town currently draws water.

Bob Codner, the mayor of Torbay, said it was the obvious choice ten years ago, but after extensive testing they discovered high levels of hydrocarbons in the water.


South Pond in Torbay. (CBC)

"We were getting geared up back in the '90s, I guess, to bring South Pond on stream when, much to our chagrin, we learned [there was] some contamination from the airport — namely hydrocarbons," Codner said.

The source of the contamination is the former fire training tower, where firefighters would douse the tower in gasoline and set it on fire to practice putting out a blaze.

Codner said lawyers have advised against legal action against the responsible party, which is the federal government.

"That thought has crossed our mind, and we've sought some advice on it and it doesn't look overly favourable, although we're hoping to arrange some meetings [with the federal government] and see where it goes," Codner said.

Other possibilities

Codner added that the town is currently looking at other options in the area, including Great Pond.

"Our next move is to get some testing done at Great Pond, and I've got some concerns about that," he said.

According to Codner, this pond would be more costly to develop: "You've got to build a dam to raise the water, you got to put in a new pumping station, new chlorination plant, and then you've got to transport the water a considerable distance before you get some sales, so it's going to be a big cost burden to the town, and I'm not sure it's going to be feasible right now."

Codner added that the pond is also less ideal because it is shallow water with some potential contamination sources in the watershed.

The mayor said high density development will have to be put on hold until an additional water source is found for the town.