If communities are worried about water quality, apply for funding, urges N.L

Department of Municipal Affairs says it prioritizes water projects

About one-quarter of municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador have levels of trihalomethanes higher than Health Canada’s maximum recommended amount. (CBC)

The provincial government wants any communities in Newfoundland and Labrador grappling with water quality concerns to speak to the Department of Municipal Affairs about finding and financing a solution.

“We’ve identified these issues as our priority, and we will continue to do so going into the next round of municipal capital works [funding],” said Graham Letto, the minister for Municipal Affairs.

​​Projects relating to water quality or infrastructure not only receive top priority, said Letto, but they’re also eligible for the maximum cost sharing between levels of government, which is one way to relieve some of the financial pressure on small municipal coffers.

Letto’s comments come after the town of Pasadena hired a consultant to figure out how to deal with high levels of trihalomethanes, or THMs, in its drinking water, which are more than double the maximum amount recommended by Health Canada.

“THMs is nothing new to us,” said Letto.

About one-quarter of the province’s communities have high levels of trihalomethanes in their water supplies, which can be a byproduct of the chlorination process.

Municipal Affairs Minister Graham Letto says the province wants to include more training for municipal councillors in its next revision of the Municipalities Act. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Educating councillors

The Department of Municipal Affairs does offer several courses to municipal councillors in an effort to educate them about the various issues they can expect to face while in public office, but water concerns fall outside the province’s purview.

“When it comes to technical training like this, this is something really that usually is offered at conventions, at symposiums by MNL [Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador],” Letto told CBC Radio’s Newfoundland Morning.

Letto acknowledged municipal councillors in small, remote communities may lack the means to attend such sessions, and said the province is working to bridge that gap.

“They can be left behind, and that’s something certainly that we need to address as a government,” he said, adding the issue is meant to be included in the current review and revision to the province’s Municipalities Act.