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THREE RIVERS, P.E.I. - Councillors plan to put some extra pressure on the provincial government to fix what they described as “ridiculous” and “dangerous” water issues in Georgetown.
Council heard during Monday’s meeting at Kings Playhouse that issues with the Georgetown water system have left some customers without water for hours to days following power interruptions, including a flickering of lights.
The concern was raised in a letter to council from Maroon Pig owners Richard and Stacy Toms, noting the loss of water is much more than an inconvenience for their food-based business.
“With no running water we have to close,” stated the letter. “It costs us and other businesses thousands of dollars a year in lost income.”
The couple also said outages seem to be growing more common, expressed concern for the community’s fire department and asked council to look at some solutions.
Former Georgetown CAO Dorothy MacDonald said water pressure has been an ongoing issue, especially in the spring when seasonal businesses start back up. The problem was exacerbated when Eastern Fabricators hooked up to the supply a little more than a year ago. The system’s other major draw is Seafood 2000.
The pressure problem is compounded by the aging system, which requires the operator to physically reset a switch inside the pumphouse after a power interruption.
Council also heard Georgetown’s Holland College campus has had to cancel classes due to the issue. Students can only be kept at the school for an hour when there is low water pressure.
When contacted by The Guardian, a spokesperson for the college said the campus has had to shut down for one and a half days and there have been four or five interruptions that saw water pressure restored.
While the issue is familiar to many residents – about 120 households are hooked up to the supply – it was the first time many councillors had heard about the issue in-depth.
Coun. Gerard Holland said it was the biggest issue facing council.
“This is a big problem. It’s hard to believe this is going on in this day and age.”
- Coun. Gerard Holland
“This is a big problem,” said Holland. “It’s hard to believe this is going on in this day and age.”
Coun. Cody Jenkins, who was also without water for a couple of days recently, said the system is a provincial entity.
“The town has never owned it, and that’s part of the problem,” said Jenkins.
The province installed the system in the 1960s for the shipyard and fish processing facility. Years later, the province offered to hook residents up to the system.
Eventually, two of the system’s five wells were decommissioned and when Eastern Fabricators hooked onto the supply last year, the province decided to re-establish one of those wells.
MacDonald said the new well would include controls to allow the operator to reset the switch from anywhere rather than having to physically go to the pumphouse.
“So that brand-new well was supposed to answer our problems for us. The problem is, they never finished that well, and we’re almost a year and half in,” said MacDonald, adding that the original timeline was to have the well running by the spring.
MacDonald said she was later told in September the well would be running in about two weeks and that the town, province and community could come together to discuss the issue moving forward. That deadline passed, and no meeting was held, an issue that was likely complicated by the dissolution of Georgetown council at the end of September.
Coun. John MacFarlane described the situation as ridiculous, while Coun. Debbie Johnston suggested forming a working group to meet with the province.
“It’s the province’s system, they should be responsible for it,” said Johnston. “This is causing some dangerous issues… it definitely needs to be looked at ASAP.”
Mayor Ed MacAulay agreed with approaching the province to again discuss the issue, while also pointing out a need for council to solve similar issues in Cardigan where some residents are finding salt in their water.
“It’s a very serious issue whenever people have a problem with their drinking water,” said MacAulay. “It’s just not right.”
A spokesperson for the province said while the upgrade has taken longer than expected, the hope is to have the new system running by January.
That appeared to provide little assurance to Stacy, who said she has been told the new system would be “ready to go anytime” for the past year.
“It was supposed to be replaced and fixed, so we’ll see if anything happens,” she said.