BLACK TICKLE, N.L. - The Black Tickle water treatment plant requires a part-time maintenance person the community cannot afford to hire.
Water issues are nothing new in Black Tickle. The community of about 120 people off the coast of Labrador has been dealing with problems at the community's water treatment plant for years.
The community has now been without a working water treatment plant for about a month. The Red Cross and Municipal Affairs have brought in bottled water a few times but it’s not enough to supply people with the drinking water they need.
Joe Keefe, head of the Local Service District, said the residents have been dealing with the shortage in different ways.
“I’d say some people are drinking water that’s probably not up to standards but you have to drink something, right?” he told SaltWire Network in an interview.
Keefe said the water plant is expensive to maintain and since Black Tickle has such a small population it doesn't have a lot of funds.
“It’s a never-ending battle to keep it going,” he said.
A repair part is expected to arrive the first week in November, and the community hopes to have the plant up and running soon.
Keefe is optimistic this fix will solve the issue but acknowledges someone is needed, at least part time, to keep the plant maintained.
The plant used to have a maintenance person, the cost of which was covered by the province, but the funding is no longer available and the community can’t afford it.
“We’ll see what we can come up with but the community can only put a small amount in there,” he said.
MHA hopeful maintenance issue solved soon
Lisa Dempster, MHA for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, said since she started representing Black Tickle six years ago it has had ongoing issues with water. There are a number of water treatment plants in Newfoundland and generally their operation falls under the mandate of a governing structure in the community, in this case the LSD.
The problems in Black Tickle are very operational in nature, Dempster said, so the province used to provide special assistance through Municipal Affairs to fund the maintenance person position.
“It’s not a full-time job, it’s a few hours changing filters, things like that,” she said. “There was always push back because it's operational, we weren’t doing it anywhere else. Generally the fees you charge for water cover what you would use to buy your filters and things like that. Nonetheless, we supported it.”
Last October the plant required a $50,000 fix and it was mentioned maintenance would be required again. Over the summer the province paid just under $25,000 to make some more repairs at the plant. Shortly after, this bigger problem happened, she said, costing $9,000 to fly in a company in hopes it would be a quick fix.
“We were told it was much more serious than was initially thought and it was made very clear to me and Municipal Affairs that this problem was due to lack of maintenance,” Dempster said.
The bill for this repair is $59,000, Dempster said, and she has been working with different departments to try to get the maintenance issue solved. She's optimistic she will have an answer soon.
“I’m hopeful we’ll have this sorted sooner rather than later to get the basic maintenance done on the plant so the taxpayers won’t have to keep footing these large bills,” she said.
In addition to bringing in water, Dempster said the MV Komatik will be stopping in the community to let people fill up water jugs with the water from the boat.
“It’s not ideal,” she said. “It’s terrible I’m having this conversation in 2019 but it’s an interim measure while we’re waiting on parts.”
Dempster said since she became MHA she has devoted a lot of time to working on issues in Black Tickle, water being just one.
“Of the 18 communities I represent I would say Black Tickle has required more time than the other 17 combined,” she said. “There are a lot of challenges there and the people are so resilient.”