Dark and dirty: That's the tap water in Margaree

No crystal-clear water here for residents of a community on the south coast of Newfoundland.

Residents bathing, washing dishes and clothes in coffee-coloured water

This photo was taken this week while a resident was having a bath. (Submitted by Edwin Northcott)

People in Margaree are used to water woes, according to resident Edwin Northcott.

He says they haven't been able to drink what flows from the tap for years, but they do have to bathe in water so dark and murky you sometimes can't see through it, and use it to wash clothes and dishes as well.

"If you come to this community you won't find a lot of people wearing any white shirts," Northcott told CBC Radio's Corner Brook Morning Show.

The entire town relies on the water supply from a nearby pond, which is pumped to a tank and gravity fed to homes in Margaree — a community of about 300 people on the south coast of Newfoundland, 10 kilometres from Port aux Basques.  

Northcott says the water filter from his home filtration system is "disgusting" after about a week. (Submitted by Edwin Northcott)

Home filters can't cope with the sediment that is stirred up in the pond during the summer months, and the town doesn't have the money to deal with the problem. 

"People are getting frustrated, it seems every year it keeps getting worse and worse," said Northcott.

Costly solution

"We've had some meetings with the MHA and right now it's a $3 million solution for a town with 140 households, so it's tough to come up with the funding for that."

The community would have to come up with 10 per cent of the cost for a permanent fix — a water treatment facility — but Northcott said that would be difficult for the town's aging population.

"It's tough to add extra fees to all the fixed-income residents. So, as of right now, they're pretty strapped with all the extra fees the government has put on everyone in the past year."

Water not being treated 

Another issue is the town's chlorination system, which hasn't been working for about a year. Northcott is concerned about E. coli and other contaminants that could be in the water as a result.

"What we need is someone to come to the community from government with a viable, affordable option — even to just clean it up a little bit to make it safe even to bathe in."

In a statement to CBC News, the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment said it has been in contact with the Local Service District about the water quality issues, and is working to offer training on the chlorination system to the water operator.

Northcott says there are no household wells in the community, and everyone relies on the town water supply. (Submitted by Edwin Northcott)

"The department has indicated to the Local Service District that potential corrective measures to improve water quality in Fox Roost-Margaree would be the rehabilitation of the drilled well system that was used prior to 2014, and the reduction of reliance on the Margaree Pond water supply," they stated.

The department said it is investing approximately $1 million over three and a half years to provide funding to regional service boards to hire a regional operator to work with communities to help them effectively operate and maintain their drinking water and wastewater systems.

Cold weather consolation

Northcott said residents get some relief in the winter once the pond freezes and the sediment settles, turning the water from dark to light brown.

A potable water dispensing unit was installed in the centre of town in 2012, and residents make regular trips to fill bottles for drinking and cooking. 

With files from the Corner Brook Morning Show