Nfld. & Labrador

State of emergency declared for Howley as water reserves run dry

The problem could be a leak or a blockage, but officials are still trying to figure it out.

'We just ask the people to be patient and we're doing everything we can,' says Mayor Wayne Bennett

Water levels at Sandy Lake are much lower than usual and intake at the pumphouse has run dry. (Submitted by Wayne Bennett)

The western Newfoundland town of Howley has declared a state of emergency due to a water shortage.

"We had an emergency council meeting and we had the recommendations from our fire chief because with no water, we have no fire protection, and we have no water for our residents," said Mayor Wayne Bennett Monday afternoon.

"We restrict the residents from actually using any water for any non-essential purposes, and then if someone doesn't comply with that we can do enforcement measures."

Wayne Bennett is the mayor of the Town of Howley in western Newfoundland. (CBC)

Bennett said earlier that the town's water reserves had completely run out as of 10:30 a.m. Monday.

When they started investigating to see if the problem was related to a leak or a blockage in the pump system — they hit a snag.

"Unfortunately all the pumps that we have ... have all failed [during testing]. We have a pump now coming from Corner Brook," he told CBC Radio's On the Go

It all started around 8 p.m. Sunday, when an alarm went off at the town's pumphouse.

When officials arrived they realized the pumps were running hot because there was little-to-no intake from the water supply in Sandy Lake.

Bennett said town officials have since managed to get a camera underwater.

"It appears that at the end of the intake, there's a wire cage and it appears that that's all covered in debris, " he said.

'So most likely, all the intake is clogged up."

A red light on the water pumphouse Sunday night in Howley alerted the town that there was an issue with its water supply. (Submitted by Wayne Bennett)

Bennett said Howley — which has a population of about 200 — didn't get the same rains that other parts of western Newfoundland did recently, and the water levels at Sandy Lake are unusually low for January.

"A lot of senior residents have never seen the lake so low this time of year," he told CBC Radio's Corner Brook Morning Show.

Town is 'rallying'

Bennett said people are pitching in by taking bottled water to seniors, in addition to a bucket brigade to bring water to homes so people can flush their toilets.

"We have bottled water stockpiled in our community centre ... the town is rallying around [each other]," he said.

Firefighters will also be going door to door to update residents on the situation.

A water supply meter shows Howley's tank was at 8,000 litres Monday morning, which is about one tenth of its usual reading. Five hours later, the tank had run completely dry. (Submitted by Wayne Bennett)

"Most of the people in town are seniors and don't have Internet, so they're not up on Facebook or anything else, so it's the only way we can get the word out to them," Bennett said.

"We just ask the people to be patient and we're doing everything we can," he added.

With files from the Corner Brook Morning Show and On the Go