A St. John's company is offering a way for rural communities across Newfoundland and Labrador to have access to clean drinking water.

In February, CBC News reported that the number of communities with high levels of a chlorination byproduct known as trihalomethanes, or THMs, in their drinking water had nearly doubled over the past 13 years.

Residents in towns like Bonavista and Pouch Cove said their tap water wasn't fit to drink. Their water contained levels of THMs that were more than double and triple, respectively, the national standard.

'It will take that water... and destroy and remove any THMs, or HAAs, or other nasties.' —David Fay, president of Fay Environmental Canada

Many people were instead visiting artesian wells, or buying bottled water.

But David Fay, president of Fay Environmental Canada, said his company has developed a chemical-free water treatment system, designed specifically for smaller communities that can't afford a full water treatment plant.

The system connects directly to the town's own water supply. It's housed in a separate building that residents can visit to fill up their water containers.

"It produces bottled-quality water, regardless of the incoming water quality. So, total removal of colour, taste, odour, any pathogens or bacteria, viruses, beaver fever or Giardia, Cryptosporidium — all of that is destroyed and removed," Fay said.

Several stages of filtration

There are several stages of filtration to get that pristine water.

First, the water passes through a sand filter. Then it undergoes ozonation, which bleaches and disinfects the water, and takes out different contaminants. The water then goes through a multimedia filter, with sand and anthracite, to help remove any organic material that the ozone had broken down or destroyed. Then there's an activated carbon stage, that further removes this organic material. And finally, the water passes through a very fine membrane filter.

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David Fay says his company's system is designed specifically for smaller communities that can't afford a full water treatment plant. (CBC )

"If THMs are present in the water coming into the system, it will destroy and remove them," Fay said.

"So you could have a heavily-coloured water that's been chlorinated, as is typically the case. It will take that water... and destroy and remove any THMs, or HAAs, or other nasties."

The CD400 system can serve a population of up to 1,000, and can dispense up to 4,000 litres of clean drinking water per day.

Fay said the system has simple instructions for residents to get their water.

"You can arrive with either a cooler-type bottle or a smaller container. You press a single button. It makes water available for five minutes. You rinse your container, and then fill it," he said.

7 systems installed

Over the past year, the Fay CD400 water filtration system has been installed in seven N.L. communities:

  • Leading Tickles — operational since April 2012;
  • Whiteway — operational since late April/May 2012;
  • Isle aux Morts — operational since May 2012;
  • Fox Roost-Margaree — operational since May 2012;
  • Mary's Harbour — operational since November 2012;
  • Lawn — operational since February 2013;
  • Point May — installed and should be operational by March 25, 2013.

Units have been built for five other communities, but have yet to be delivered and installed:

  • Port Saunders;
  • Seal Cove (Fortune Bay);
  • Postville;
  • Makkovik;
  • Rigolet.

"It takes about a minute to fill two cooler bottles, so it's quite quick."

Cost-sharing agreement

The system and its associated fees can cost between $300,000 and $425,000, depending on where in the province it's being delivered.

But Fay said towns can apply for a 90/10 cost-sharing agreement with the provincial government to make the system more affordable.

While it can be expensive to purchase, he said the operational costs are low.

"If you look at the amount of water it can potentially produce, and look at the operational cost, you're looking at a cost of about … less than one cent per gallon," Fay said.

Clean water in Lawn

The town of Lawn on the Burin Peninsula is the sixth community in Newfoundland and Labrador to get this system.

The community of about 700 people is constantly faced with boil-water advisories. It has been on its latest advisory since August.

Mayor William Lockyer said the town's own water is horrible.

"It's a bad water system, a very, very bad water system, that we got," he said.

"Technically, the water's not fit to drink."

Lawn has had its Fay water filtration system up and running since February.

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Lawn Mayor William Lockyer says the water in the Burin Peninsula town is not fit to drink. (CBC )

"Everybody is starting to use it now," Lockyer said. "It's not open that long, but everybody is steady coming there and filling up …

"Anybody at all that wants to come and get water, there's no charge."

Lockyer said residents are happy with the water quality, and it's making a difference in their lives.

"To go out and buy a box of bottles of water now, they're not cheap. And it's only a matter of coming up there in the car, pulling in, going in, [switching]

on the machine, and fill up your five-gallon bucket, and use it from there," he said.

"It's a wonderful thing for them. It's excellent."