Nfld. & Labrador

'It just looks horrible': Black Tickle man wants cleaner, clearer water

Even though the water in Black Tickle is treated with chlorine, resident Sheldon Morris says the discoloration causes problems, and he wants to see clearer water running from his tap.

The water is treated with chlorine but remains dark and cloudy

Sheldon Morris says he doesn't hesitate to let his daughter, Mia, bathe in the general use water because it's tested regularly. (Submitted)

It stains laundry, corrodes pipes and looks terrible.

The water that people in Black Tickle use for bathing and doing laundry is treated with chlorine but it remains dark and muddy because of high iron content.

"It's almost like either coffee or Coke," resident Sheldon Morris said, "and it stains everything, and that's the worst."

About 100 people live in the remote island village of Black Tickle, off the coast of Labrador. There's no running water there. Instead, water from a pond is held at the local treatment plant, where residents fill up large barrels and vats for household use.

Drinking water is treated using reverse osmosis and is much clearer than the general-use supply.

Black Tickle's general use water is coffee-coloured due to high levels of iron and sediment. (Submitted by Sheldon Morris)

Hard on pipes

"This is supposed to be your treated water source.… It just looks horrible," Morris said. "Nobody expects to fill up their bathtub and see this."

Bad as it looks, Morris said, he's not concerned about his family using the water because it's tested regularly.

It's the high iron content, combined with settled sediment that gives the water its coffee colour. Morris worries about what that's doing to his plumbing fixtures and hot water tank. 

The local service district periodically flushes the lines to clear sediment, but Morris said that doesn't happen often enough. 

He added the local service district used to employ a maintenance worker who was responsible for flushing the lines, but grant funding dried up.

Morris says though the water is chlorinated, the high iron content stains the tub, the laundry and anything else it touches. (Submitted by Sheldon Morris)

'We know it's a problem'

Local service district chair Joe Keefe said a volunteer now flushes the lines.

He conceded it could be done more frequently but added flushing the lines doesn't get to the real issue.

"We know it's a problem," Keefe said.

"We haven't come up with a solution for it. It has to do with the iron content in the water and the fact that the water is marginally used. So, most of the time it's just sitting in the pipes not being moved."

I live here and I got a little girl to protect.- Sheldon Morris

Keefe said the service district committee has applied for funding from the NunatuKavut Community Council to build more pipes to move the water around. That way, the sediment wouldn't collect the way it does now.

"Then at least the water will be moving more and it'll probably remain at like an apple juice colour," Keefe said.

If NunatuKavut signs off, Keefe said the next step is to approach the province for more funding.

Keefe thinks that would be a better use of limited resources, rather than hiring a full-time maintenance worker like the community once had.

He said the lines were flushed over the weekend, which means the water should be clearer now.

Morris said he hopes to see a more permanent solution.

"I live here and I got a little girl that I'm trying to protect," he said. "Everybody should have access to clean water."

Morris says despite the colour of his water, it is treated and he believes its safe to bathe in. (Submitted by Sheldon Morris)

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Bailey White

CBC News

Bailey White is a senior producer in St. John's, N.L.