Officials with the Town of Harbour Grace have expressed concern over the usage of Lady Lake as a refilling station for water bombers.
The issue was brought up by town councillors Joan Short and David Murphy at a May 11 public meeting.
Both feared what would happen if, during a refilling run, the plane was involved in an accident and fuel were to get spilled into Lady Lake, which feeds into Bannerman Lake, the town's water supply.
The issue came to light after a forest fire broke in nearby Spaniard's Bay on April 22 that required the usage of the water bombers from the Department of Natural Resources.
Harbour Grace town manager Lester Forward observed two planes "going full tilt" and refilling at Lady Lake that afternoon.
The next morning, Forward sent off an email to Floyd Barnes, an environmental specialist with the Department of Environment and Conservation who handles the Conception Bay North area, raising the town's concerns.
The response from environment, according to Forward, was not a concern because it was not the lake that the town's water comes from.
"I'm not satisfied with that answer and I'm still going forward," he said. "It doesn't make any sense to me, because if that plane, God forbid, was to crash there and all of the fuel went into Lady Lake, that will go into Bannerman Lake and into our water supply."
The town contends that there are other options available to pilots when choosing bodies of water.
Forward said there is a pond in Riverhead that would have been more suitable for usage given its closer proximity to the fire.
Councillors questioned whether it was possible for planes to use either of the bays in either Harbour Grace or Spaniard's Bay as refilling points.
For Harbour Grace, it is not a new issue. The town has contacted environment in the past, voicing its concern with the planes using Lady Lake.
A health issue
Officials fear an environmental disaster is possible if such an accident were to occur.
"Having bacteria in the water is one thing. That can be removed, but hydrocarbons in water, I don't know what the cure is," said Forward. "I don't think there is one."
Forward said any leakage into the water would be "a major setback" and a "serious problem" for Harbour Grace.
"The water supply is a consumable commodity. It's going into people's bodies and it's not just to flush the toilet or wash your car," he said. "It's our job to try and protect it the best way we can. We're not experts, but we feel that this kind of activity is very risky for our water supply."
Forward said the town does not believe that any of the activity from April did any damage to the water supply, but "the potential is there."
Response given to The Compass from the Department of Natural Resources states that the department follows guidelines on the use of water bombers in protected public water supply areas. During active forest fire season, all ponds and lakes in a protected public water supply area, with the exception of the intake pond/lake, may be used for water pickup.
"In the unlikely event that fuel or oil is released into a body of water the incident is reported immediately to the appropriate regional watershed management specialist (Department of Environment and Conservation) who will determine if additional follow-up or water quality monitoring is warranted," an official wrote in an email.
Forward said the intention for bringing up the issue with government again is just to "make them aware and ask that they consider the use of other sites.
"We would like them to not use Bannerman Lake and Lady Lake because they are the water supply and they are a protected area," he said.