News Release

REF NO.: 10

SUBJECT: Labrador Institute and Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay collaborate on drinking water research project

DATE: September 22, 2016

A new research report studying the chemical composition of the drinking water in the Valley area of Happy Valley-Goose Bay has been released by the Labrador Institute of Memorial University, in collaboration with the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

The report, authored by Dr. Merline Fonkwe, Labrador Institute, summarizes the findings of the research project conducted with her team to respond to community concerns surrounding the chemical and aesthetic quality of drinking water in town and the town council’s desire to engage in evidence-based decision-making.

Dr. Fonkwe and team members collected water samples in March, June, July, and October 2015 at five key locations, including the municipal treatment plant, the Department of National Defence (DND) treatment plant, the Sandhill reservoir and five private households and a government building in the Valley area. A comparison sample was taken at a private household in the northern sector of the town.

Results from this study indicate that the physical and chemical qualities of treated waters from the municipal treatment plant and the DND treatment plant are different. The physical and chemical qualities of drinking water also change during its journey from the Sandhill reservoir through the distribution system to household and building taps in the Valley area of town. These changes in water quality depend on the initial physical and chemical qualities of the treated water at the municipal treatment plant, the proportion of the treated water from municipal and DND treatment plants in the Sandhill reservoir, and the time the water spends in the distribution system itself.

While the study found some incidences of trihalomethanes (THMs) and lead levels that were above the Health Canada guidelines, this was only in certain locations and at certain testing periods. It is important to note that these findings were not widely distributed throughout the Valley. They are dependent on the physical and chemical qualities of the water, where the water was being gathered in the distribution line, the type of piping utilized, and whether or not the lines are being regularly flushed. Furthermore, as the report states: “Lead in the water comes from materials of the house plumbing, and not from the Town water.”

“This study is intended to support the municipality to develop and implement strategies for managing water quality throughout town,” said Dr. Fonkwe. “The results from this research will provide a sound baseline for future studies and to support evidence-based decision-making for the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.”

Dr. Fonkwe’s research is focused on the chemical composition of the Valley’s water. While it reports on levels of THMs and other parameters, it is important to highlight that Happy Valley-Goose Bay is also not the only municipality dealing with drinking-water quality issues, and that this report does not quantify the potential health effects. It is also important to recognize that this is a preliminary study, and that more research will be required.

“We supported this independent study on drinking water as part of our commitment to deliver quality essential services to residents,” said Jamie Snook, mayor, Happy Valley-Goose Bay. “This report presents scientific information that we can now use to consider future modifications. The council has been listening closely to residents and we will continue to support investments, new research and our management team to provide the best possible water to all. We would like to thank the Labrador Institute for their continued partnership on research endeavours for the municipality.”

The Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay will work with the Department of Environment and Climate Change’s Water Resources Management Division to implement any recommendations identified as necessary.

“The Labrador Institute is always proud to support research that not only meets high scientific standards, but also contributes to evidence-based decision-making and meeting the needs and priorities of Labradorians,” said Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo, director, Labrador Institute. “The Labrador Institute was pleased to partner with the town on this important research, and appreciate their commitment to encouraging and supporting research activities that serve the diverse needs of the municipality. We look forward to continuing collaborations on this and other topics.”

This research was supported by the Harris Centre of Memorial University through the RBC Water Research and Outreach Fund, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agencies, and the Department of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development, Newfoundland and Labrador. Partners and collaborators included the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the Department of National Defence, NunatuKavut Community Council, the Water Resources Management Division of the Department of Environment and Climate Change in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and the residents who permitted the research team to enter their homes and analyze their tap water.

You can view the report at the Harris Centre website.

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