Nfld. & Labrador

Hopedale's archaic water system causing frustration in Labrador town

This has been an especially challenging winter for the 600 or so residents of Hopedale, Labrador, where problems with the town's archaic infrastructure is leaving many with no running water, and many wondering if their calls for assistance are being overlooked.
Nadine Frieda and her young family have been coping with a limited water supply for much of this winter in Hopedale, Labrador. Even flushing the toilet and washing dishes, things that most people take for granted, are a challenge. (CBC)

This has been an especially challenging winter for the 600 or so residents of Hopedale, Labrador, where problems with the town's archaic infrastructure are leaving many with no running water, and many wondering if their calls for assistance are being overlooked.

Frozen pipes have been a constant, and the water reservoir is proving to be too small to meet the growing town's needs. 

Many homeowners have been without running water in their homes for days, and those who do have very little water pressure are being urged to conserve every drop.

Residents have been depending on bottled water shipped into the community, forcing many to live without the basics that most take for granted.
Jimmy Tuttauk is the angajukKâk, or mayor, of Hopedale. (Leah Balass/CBC)

Nadine Frieda is one of them. She has three children; the youngest is just two years-of-age.

She has to pour water into the toilet in order to flush it. She routinely has to fetch water from a dirty tub and boil it for dishes and laundry. 

It's a hassle, she said.

"It's getting tiring going to places to do things, especially the clothes, I have three growing kids — it's getting tiring."

State of emergency

Some of the problems are quite visible. A water pipe can be seen stretched across the ice, exposed to the freezing cold. 

It's not what you'd expect in 2015, especially on the north coast of Labrador, where winter temperatures plunge the mercury deep below the freezing mark.

"It's so frustrating that when you live in Labrador. We have such serious needs and issues that are being overlooked," said Jimmy Tuttauk, the town's AngajukKâk, or mayor.
Many residents of Hopedale have been depending on bottled water in recent weeks. (CBC)

Tuttauk declared a state of emergency in the town last month, and has been calling on the provincial government to open the treasury and pour millions of dollars into the community to upgrade the water system.

The province has responded by shipping in water, deploying officials, and promising to assess the situation with a view towards a long-term fix.

In the meantime, residents are forced to bring hoses inside a warm building in order thaw them out, a process that can take days.

This works when the weather is co-operative, like it was on Wednesday, but not on stormy days. 

And the thought of how the town would combat a serious fire is also top-of-mind.

Temporary fixes

As bad as it is, it's nothing new for this town. There have been water and sewer issues for many years, addressed by a long list of temporary fixes.

Tuttauk has been critical of the provincial response in the past, saying not enough is being done.

"Give us the money that we need to upgrade our water and sewage system," he pleaded this week in an interview with Here & Now.

"Give us the money to access new water supply, and until then, we'll keep fighting and keep fighting and keep fighting."
It's an unusual sight to see water pipes feeding water into the town of Hopedale, stretched across the surface in freezing temperatures. (CBC)

With files from Leah Balass

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