St. Mary's Bay community now in 5th day of water crisis

At the moment, all of the town's water has been shut off in an effort to fill the town's reservoir. The water is not expected to be turned on again until at least tomorrow.
Riverhead Mayor Sheila Lee says her small community has already spent plenty of money on fixing its water-pumping system. (CBC)

A pump failure has been identified as the cause of an outage that has dried up taps in the St. Mary's Bay community of Riverhead, where the mayor wants swift action on fixing infrastructure. 

"The worry is are we going to lose another pump? That will be our third one," said Sheila Lee, mayor of Riverhead, adding that the long term solution is to move the pump itself.

While the pump, which draws water from Coot's Pond, was replaced last Friday, it proved to be not powerful enough to pump water up the hill.  

A new pump is being brought in as a replacement. 

The mayor of Riverhead, St. Mary's Bay, is hoping a new pump house can be built to replace the community's infrastructure. (iStock)

Lee said the town will meet Tuesday with engineers to find a better solution. 

"We all seem to think, and know … that pump house itself [has] to be moved, and as quickly as possible," Lee told CBC Radio's On The Go

Lee also said that Municipal Affairs Minister Eddie Joyce has given her "every assurance that they're going to act on this quickly."

Joyce told CBC News that the long-term hope is to move the pump house. 

"In the short term, they're ensuring that the pump is large enough to pump the water up over the hill," Joyce said in an interview. 

"So everyone is on scene today and hopefully they'll come up with a solution today for the short term."

Leak may hurting reservoir's ability to refill

Compounded with the problem caused by Coot's Pond pump is the belief that a leak prevents the reservoir from filling up.

Lee said that for the past six weeks, the town has shut the water off  for about 12 hours every eight days in an effort to allow the reservoir to fill up.

'We're finding out that we're not even getting eight days out of it," said Lee." Today we had to shut her down at 12 o'clock, and that was only two days ago that we had a shutdown."

Finding the major leak will also be discussed at Tuesday's meeting.

This is not the first time that Riverhead has had issues with its water.  A state of emergency was declared in 2013 because of a similar issue.  

Lee said that just last year,  $500,000 was spent installing new pumps in the main area and a six-inch line connected to the reservoir, but nothing was done with the pump house.  

'No resolution, nothing solved'

She also said that the two pumps and the search for the leak have cost the town about $15,000 in just a few short weeks.

"$15,000 is a lot of money for a little town to spend and really have nothing to see for spending that money …no resolution, nothing solved."

Lee, however, chooses to remain optimistic, and said that this issue will be resolved. She also commended Municipal Affairs for its quick response to the state of emergency announcement made Sunday.

"The mayor understands that this did happen before. What they need is a long-term solution and hopefully that the long-term solution will be forthcoming,"  said Joyce.

"We'll do whatever we can to help the town with it."

About the Author

Mark Squibb

Mark Squibb is a freelance journalist based in Conception Bay North.