Nfld. & Labrador

Happy Valley-Goose Bay council has option to improve poor water quality

One of Happy Valley-Goose Bay's two water sources is far inferior to the other and, after much public complaint, scientific proof, and military co-operation, council can now switch it out — at a price.

The town hasn’t committed to buying excess Spring Gulch supply

This photo of a full bathtub was posted to a community discussion board in 2015. It shows the water quality in Happy Valley-Goose Bay after an annual flushing of water lines. (CBC )

One of Happy Valley-Goose Bay's two water sources is far inferior to the other and, after much public complaint, scientific proof, and military cooperation, council can switch it out — at a price.

Valley-area water is known to have a higher concentration of cancer-causing organic chemicals.

It corrodes faucets, sometimes runs discoloured, and is supplied by the town through various groundwater wells.

Spring Gulch water

The other part of town gets higher quality water from Spring Gulch on the 5 Wing Goose Bay base.

The town hasn't committed to anything yet, but after meetings with the federal government and the base, 5 Wing is now prepared to provide the town with its excess water — about twice the current amount and enough to cover the Valley-area on most days.

MP Yvonne Jones says the decision to provide the Valley with Spring Gulch water is in the town's hands. (Katie Breen/CBC)

"In certain points during the year it will be absolutely no issue to provide that supply," said Labrador MP Yvonne Jones.

"There are going to be other times in the year where there will be more demand for water on the base. That could impact being able to provide stability in the water supply."

Jones said the Department of National Defence will require at least 25 per cent of Spring Gulch water for military use and will take more as necessary.

Plan B needed

The town, therefore, will need to have a backup plan for when activity on the base is at a peak.

"The town [does] have some wells that they can use for that," Jones said. 

"[This arrangement] allows them to take out the wells that have been really unusable, where water has not been adequate for consumption."

I just think it's a win-win situation.- Yvonne Jones

The town would have to pay the cost to generate the extra Spring Gulch water, according to Jones.

She wouldn't ballpark the amount but said clean water would be worth the price.

"I just think it's a win-win situation for the people in the Valley part of Goose Bay because they have had bad water there for a long time. It's been an ongoing issue."

No comment from the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay

The town declined CBC's request for an interview on Spring Gulch, saying in a statement that decisions on the water supply still have to be made internally.

However, on Thursday, during Mayor Wally Andersen's first interview since replacing the late John Hickey, the mayor said, "We're here for one thing and one thing only: to provide a good way of life for the people of Happy Valley-Goose Bay at the lowest price possible."

"I can assure the people that raising taxes is not on our radar. It's not on our agenda but there's going to be some difficult decisions down the road that we're going to have to make."

Andersen is hoping to release town's 2018 budget by end of this month.