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Harbour Grace residents fed up with water well

Lyda Byrne addressed members of Harbour Grace's town council at a regular meeting held Wednesday, April 26.
Lyda Byrne addressed members of Harbour Grace's town council at a regular meeting held Wednesday, April 26.

HARBOUR GRACE — Harbour Grace residents relying on a water well in Riverhead want a permanent solution to address frequent disruptions in service.

Lyda Byrne, who lives in one of 22 households using Mercer's Well, addressed town council members at Wednesday evening's regular meeting.

"We the residents of Riverhead being serviced by Mercer's Well have reached the point where our daily living is in constant turmoil," she said. "We are constantly concerned about whether or not we will have water on a daily basis, and in fact, have had many instances wherein we have not been afforded this basic human right."

According to Byrne, disruptions to water service have been ongoing for years. From the middle of March to April 5 of this year, residents were without water for eight days total, she said. The well's pump was replaced March 28, but stopped working again April 5.

Byrne said this was the third time the town replaced the pump since last June, which she suggested points to bigger issues with the well.

The town has shut off the well from midnight to 5 a.m. daily since April 13 to help the well. Byrne said the town should have consulted with residents about this move, given some residents are battling severe illness and working shifts that end late in the night.

Byrne also brought up over $800,000 in federal and provincial funding announced for the town in 2008. According to a news release from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), that money, plus $203,000 from the town, was supposed to be spent on expanding water and sewer services to 40 households in the Harvey Street, Riverhead area. Byrne asked council to look into how this money was spent.

"Why wasn't the water and sewer extended to our households at this time, as was allocated?"

According to town superintendent Pat Hearn, the well was doing better following the most recent fix. Water flow was at a low of four gallons per minute, but following some well fracturing work, the flow rate increased to 12 gallons per minute.

"It went well," he said Wednesday. "We've been checking it since (Tuesday), and the tank is full."

The end of the nearest water line could at some point be utilized to serve households currently using Mercer's Well, but Hearn said it would then become an issue of determining how to get the pressure necessary to deliver the water.

Byrne acknowledged the most recent fix may have worked for now, but she's not optimistic about the situation moving forward.

"I understand that our well was fracked and according to reports, this appeared to be successful," Byrne said. "However, the long-term effects of this procedure have yet to be seen, and I can advise council that in speaking with households, I've been advised that the majority of people are experiencing low water pressure — significantly lower than what they had prior to the well being fracked."

Mayor Terry Barnes said he understands the importance of having a reliable water supply.

"We know over the last number of years there's been a lot of trouble with the well, and we as council are looking very seriously at trying to eliminate it."

Barnes also indicated the town would look into the federal-provincial funding announced in 2008 to see where it went.

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