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Stephenville’s water woes

Ted Gracie is the Director of Municipal Services for the Town of Stephenville. – © René J. Roy



STEPHENVILLE – With lower than average precipitation over the winter months, followed by lower rainfall amounts up until recently, the Director of Municipal Services for Stephenville is a bit concerned. Ted Gracie has been tending to some water woes for the last few weeks, as well as yet another troublesome issue.

“Well, we have a groundwater supply, and groundwater is still greatly influenced by rainfall amounts. All precipitation really. And we had very low precipitation amounts over the winter.”

Research data reveals that the Stephenville area had a mere 101 days last winter with total snowfall accumulation around 161 centimetres all year, compared to 126 days the previous winter, with 228 cm or more being deposited. Gracie also noted that the snowmelt happened very rapidly this year.

“It didn’t infiltrate the ground. It ran over into the brooks. And our rainfall that we are having now seem to be more intense, but for shorter durations. So the amount of absorption into the ground is reduced significantly.”

It’s almost the perfect storm for low water, so to speak. With nine wells to oversee, Gracie doesn’t have the exact volumes handy, but confirmed they are all down at least several feet.

“Where normally we might have 20 feet, right now we have 10, 12.”

The best way to combat low water supply is through conservation efforts, something Gracie says the town is taking measures to enact.

“We’ve cut down on our flow. We are focusing on leak detection, and we are advertising to conserve water.”

Gracie has noticed a moderate reduction in consumption, but asks that citizens continue with their efforts to help out. As if all of that wasn’t enough, there has been another issue to contend with when it comes to the town’s water supply.

“The problems that we’re having right now – we have some discolouration. This is a result of several years of deposits in the lines, and we are in the process now of flushing that out.”

Discoloured water can be a sign of serious problems in the system, or a contamination that necessitates a boil order, but Gracie put that fear to rest easily.

“The boil advisories, on our Facebook pages, they are a requirement under the Board of Health whenever we open or work on a water main.”

The problem with the water is a simple buildup of manganese. Manganese is an essential trace element naturally found in many food sources, and is also available as a supplement. But in volume, it has a tendency to change water to a less than appealing colour. There are slight risks involved with drinking water infused with too much manganese, but they are more in line with long term exposure and consumption in high doses, something that is not the case in Stephenville.

Says Gracie, “We are in the middle of flushing out now, and that’s well over fifty per cent complete. We anticipate that we will be finished by the middle of August, and that will address all of the discolouring.”

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