By Mark Squibb
September 15, 2023
There was a scheduled town-wide water shut off in Carbonear last Thursday to accommodate work on Valley Road. Water was not turned back on until early Friday morning, long after many residents had already gone to bed.
It’s far from the first water shut off, both planned or unplanned, that residents have experienced over the last month or so.
Several Valley Road residents also had their water shut off on August 28 while work was completed on the same project, and earlier last month, the Town had scheduled a town-wide water shut off for August 22, but before it had a chance to shut the water off at noon, a break in the Valley Road water main caused a water outage across Carbonear. Due to the water main break, the town was under a boil order for several days. Leaks were also discovered on Water Street and Goodison Street.
“The unexpected water main break at nine really threw chaos into everyone’s schedule,” admitted Mayor Frank Butt, who said that work along Valley Road, once completed, will allow staff to address water main leaks without having to shut off the entire town’s supply.
“The valves have been in there so long that they’re not working properly,” said Butt. “So, when Valley Road Phase 4 is completed, we should have enough new valves so that in the event of another shut down, we’ll be able to isolate the northside say, if that’s where the problem is, or the southside, if that’s where the problem is, or the midsection of the town, without having to shut down the whole town… That way, only a third of the town is affected.”
Council awarded the tender for that work to Cougar Engineering and Construction this past June at a cost of $856,750, including taxes.
As for last Thursday’s shut off, Butt said it’s unfortunate the work couldn’t be completed prior to school starting back on Wednesday. Butt the Town is looking at a means to avoid such inconveniences in the future.
“Moving forward, we will put a clause in the contract saying that we want any shutdowns, or partial shutdowns, to be done on a particular day that would be less intrusive on the community,” said Butt. “So, let’s say for example we could have all planned shutdowns take place on a Monday if that is the time that would have the least impact on businesses and residents. But that wasn’t in this contract for us to dictate the timing.”
He added had the town requested the work be moved to a different date, the company could have asked for compensation due to delays.
Butt said a number of recent shut offs and boil orders have been the cost for long term infrastructure improvements.
“There’s about four or five million dollars worth of infrastructure work taking place in 2023, so when you’re doing that much infrastructure replacement and upgrades, you’re guaranteed to run into these situations,” said the mayor. “But once these projects are completed, and things are more upgraded, there’ll be less and less (interruptions). It’s like the saying, short term pain for long term gain. No one likes to be inconvenienced by water outages. But like I said, because we’re doing so much, dollarwise, for our town in 2023, it was inevitable that you would come across these situations. It’s great that there’s so much work taking place in Carbonear, but this is one of the drawbacks.”
Butt acknowledged the headache the shut offs can create for businesses and residents.
“I can empathise with residents and with businesses being inconvenienced when the water is shut down — especially the businesses,” said Butt. “We just came out of a trying time, and businesses have improved their sales, but these shutdowns do affect their revenues. And if there’s a shut down and employees don’t get paid (because they can’t go to work) that’s earnings that these individuals don’t receive, as well as businesses losing revenue.”
While businesses across the board have had to bounce back from the pandemic, businesses in Carbonear, particularly those along Water Street, have also had to contend with ongoing construction work.
Butt said the improvements will be worth it in the long run.
“We ask that everyone have patience with the Town,” said the mayor. “We are improving our ageing infrastructure. We’re not just doing it for the sake of doing it, we’re doing it because we’re trying to improve what we have there. And not only are we replacing what’s in the ground, but we’re adding devices that will help us in the future to monitor the flow of water and to monitor any trouble that could arise.
Butt said the best way for residents to stay informed about water shut offs and boil orders, besides checking the Town’s social media accounts, is to register their email addresses with the Town.