Cofferdam seepage calls emergency plan for Muskrat Falls into question
Mud Lake’s local improvement committee says it received a courtesy call six and a half hours too late
Nalcor's emergency preparedness plan is in need of improvement, according to officials who were on the receiving end of information on Friday.
- Muskrat Falls reservoir levels reduced due to cofferdam seepage
- Mud Lake wants road in case of 'catastrophic failure' at Muskrat Falls
That's when increased water seepage occurred at Muskrat Falls' cofferdam, heightening fears of flooding in some surrounding communities.
Mud Lake misses warning
Initial calls went out around 3:30 a.m. but the the current chair of Mud Lake's local improvement committee, Melissa Best, says the community — just downstream from the megaproject — wasn't informed about the situation until a number of hours later when she reached out to Nalcor and got a call back.
"It kind of leaves a bad feeling for us here in Mud Lake, you know, personally speaking, I mean give us a fighting chance," Best told CBC's Labrador Morning.
"Like, don't wait six hours and throw us a courtesy call. There should be a better response system."
Best says Nalcor attempted to contact the outgoing chair of the community's improvement committee, but the call went to voicemail as the former member is no longer in that role and therefore wasn't anticipating a call.
"One person probably shouldn't be the only contact for the whole community either," Best said, adding that Nalcor has had her contact information on file since September when the company began working on an emergency preparedness plan with Mud Lake.
'Don't wait six hours and throw us a courtesy call." -Melissa Best, chair of Mud Lake's local improvement committee
Meanwhile, in a release Monday, the company said, "On Friday, Nalcor notified representatives in the four communities downstream of the Muskrat Falls facility, as well as the public, of the potential for increased water levels and flows in the river."
"They were advised at that time that there was no risk to local residents and downstream communities."
Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay wants more notification
The town manager in Happy Valley-Goose Bay did pick up when called early morning Friday but Mayor Jamie Snook believes that call could've been made sooner.
"We got a lot of questions about when did these issues start with the cofferdam and how long did it take before we started to get notification," he said.
When the river changes that quickly and dramatically, that does pose threats to people. - Jamie Snook, mayor of Happy Valley-Goose Bay
Nalcor released water from the Muskrat Falls reservoir on Friday to mitigate risk and maintain the integrity of the structure.
"When the river changes that quickly and dramatically, that does pose threats to people that are using the river," Snook said.
"If there's going to be changes to it and there was ample opportunity to give us more notice, we should be given more notice."
A release from Nalcor says a full inspection of the project's cofferdam is underway and remediation work has begun.
The company plans to begin flooding the reservoir again once work has been completed but hasn't set a timeframe yet.
"We should know about any issues with the integrity of that dam immediately, no questions asked and until the municipality is properly included in this stuff, we're not going to be satisfied," Snook said.
- Happy Valley-Goose Bay mayor wants answers on safety of Muskrat Falls dam
- Don't call us: In case of Muskrat Falls emergency, call government says Nalcor
"And people in town are not going to feel a sense of safety with this infrastructure or with the way the company is handling their business."
Spring runoff not an OK indicator
Nalcor said water levels and flow rates returned to normal over the weekend.
Midday Friday, Nalcor described things as "consistent with spring flow conditions."
But Best said springtime levels sometimes bring destruction.
"Our spring runoff sometimes leaves homes flooded so I mean they should be careful," she said.
"If that's what they're going to compare it to, then they should probably have a better system in place."
Best said the water rose about three feet by lunchtime on Friday but no homes, wharfs or boats sustained damage.
With files from Labrador Morning