Nfld. & Labrador

Tests show Deer Lake drinking water clean, despite concern over barrels found in supply

More than 70 barrels were removed from Deer Lake's drinking water supply, and water sample tests found the town's supply was never contaminated.

'We've had no major issues ever in our water supply,' says Mayor Dean Ball

Deer Lake Mayor Dean Ball said he was confident the study into drinking water from the Humber Canal would determine it to be clean and safe. (Troy Turner, CBC)

Testing has found Deer Lake's drinking water is safe, after barrels were found in the canal that supplies the town's water. 

"It showed that the drinking water was safe during the whole period and [there was] no detrimental effect to the drinking water," said Darren Pelley, general manager of Kruger-owned Corner Brook Pulp and Paper.

"We're pleased that that's the conclusion, the report was fairly extensive."

Kruger, which also owns Deer Lake Power, removed 74 barrels from the Humber Canal earlier this summer although in June it had said there were 55 barrels lying in the town's water supply. 

The barrels had been in the 11-kilometre canal for decades, but were only detected about two years ago by area residents. In April 2018 the mill owner said it would clean up the area and order testing of the water.

This is one of the 74 barrels removed from the Humber Canal, Deer Lake's drinking water supply. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

"Based on the assessment that was actually done at the very beginning, when they were discovered, showed no detrimental effects on the water quality," Pelley said Wednesday.

"We agreed that the best course of action was to remove the barrels given their proximity to the municipal water supply intake. ... I think the key point is the water testing continues and had been done for many years before. And the water tests showed it's safe and there's no concerns."

2 barges discovered 

The removal was carried out by Stantec, an environmental consulting company, which conducted investigations into the canal in 2017 and 2018.

During the process, two barges, comprised of steel and wood, were also found, but it was deemed safer to leave them untouched than risk environmental concerns of their upheaval. 

Another 17 barrels were found in the forest near the site which will also be removed by Kruger. Pelley said it's a less complicated process and will be done in the near future.

Darren Pelley, left, vice-president and general manager of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper is joined by Robert MacLeod, centre, and Bryan Leece, of Stantec during a news conference on drinking water in Deer Lake. (Troy Turner, CBC)

Water samples were taken from the site before, during and after the barrels were removed. According to the report released Wednesday, all samples were found to be in compliance with Health Canada's Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality.

Eighteen sediment samples from the area the barrels were in were tested in several areas, including:

  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were not detected.
  • Concentrations of trace metals were not detected at levels that are a concern.
  • Total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) concentrations ranged from non-detectable to 2,000 milligrams per kilogram and the report suggests this was likely caused by the remnants of lightly-weathered fuel oil sources and possibly some decaying vegetation.
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were not detected or detected at trace concentrations. 
  • Concentrations of Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were detected in two sediment samples, but not expected to be a concern for leaching into water.
The barrel area, located near the water supply source, is contained with booms. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

Pelley said he is confident the report was detailed and thorough enough to ensure a safe and clean drinking water source.

Deer Lake Mayor Dean Ball said he remained confident the drinking water supply was never compromised, and is glad the report verified that.

Ball said of the 35 years Deer Lake has been getting water tested — 29 of which he has been a member of town council — there's not been a serious risk to the safety of residents. He's also confident the regular testing of water quality by the province will continue to show the same results.

"Our own guys do our water checks every day – the province stores theirs," he said. " We have safeguards. ...We've had no major issues ever in our water supply."

Ball said the report is now public on the town's website and he welcomed all residents to have a look through it if there are concerns. He said there's been a lot of misinformation concerning the water floating around social media and hopes that will stop.

"I'm drinking this water ... my grandchild is drinking this water," he said. "So you know what? I have a big investment here in Deer Lake. If I didn't feel confident today, I wouldn't be stood up in front of you today declaring this."

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