Water woes in Port Hood

PORT HOOD: Inverness County CAO Keith MacDonald said it was only right to start with an apology when addressing Port Hood residents concerned about their water last Wednesday night.

“We did not want to be in this situation,” he said. “We had a number of plans in place that haven’t gone the way we wanted. This affected your lives and businesses, when you have water main breaks in the middle of the day. We apologize for the inconvenience to you and for the cost to you and your businesses.”

The water issue in Port Hood dates back to the middle of last month when one of the community’s two wells was turned off due to filter issues. Several pieces of equipment were inoperable at the Convent Street well, and this left only the Dunmore Road well in operation.

The Convent Street well was shutdown from June 16 to 21, resulting in the water reservoir dropping from its maximum operating level (18.6’) to 12.7’. On June 21, the well was turned back on, allowing a couple more feet of water to be stored. However, on June 25, several water leaks were identified.

On June 26, the Convent Street well was once again turned off due to the arrival of well drillers on site. The municipality’s plan was to add a third well to the Port Hood area, which CAO MacDonald said would remedy issues of water supply. However, the drill rig was damaged during the attempt.

The Convent Street well could not be turned back on, due to the aquifer (underground layers of water-bearing permeable rock or unconsolidated materials) affected by the drilling.

Disaster struck again on June 28 when a water main break was identified. Both wells had to be shut down in order to fix the leak. The storage tank dipped to 6.9’ of water, and water customers were asked to conserve.

“We were thinking of fire storage usage as well, so we contacted the fire chief about the amount of water the department might have to borrow,” MacDonald said.

Since then, conservation efforts and the use of both wells resulted in the reservoir buoying to 12.3’. However, two valve leaks were planned to be repaired on July 9, and those efforts were unsuccessful.

“Right now, we do have coverage for a fire, but we’re trying to climb back to 18 feet before we come off the conservation effort,” he said. “We want to get back up to 18 feet, because you never know what will happen.”

MacDonald said drilling for a new well is now underway.

Port Hood’s water, sadly, is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the county’s overall water woes. Over the next 10 years, just over $103 million worth of repairs and upgrades are needed to remedy the water and wastewater service in Inverness County.

Some of the high priority upgrades include replacing wastewater treatment plants in Whycocomagh ($5.1 million), Inverness ($4.7 million), and Judique ($2.9 million).

Upgrades to Inverness’ water mains are projected to cost $9.7 million and similar work in Judique is estimated to ring in at $1.1 million. Upgrades to gravity sewers in Inverness are also going to be a wallet-dinger at $7.1 million.