Murphy not convinced by “B” grade on report

NDP Environment Critic George Murphy (MHA, St. John’s East) says this province may have received a higher grade on a drinking water report card, but it still has a lot of work to do.

Ecojustice gave Newfoundland and Labrador a “B” grade on Waterproof 3, the third such report card it has issued since drinking water killed seven people in Walkerton, Ontario 10 years ago. The province got a “D” five years ago; Ecojustice cites improvements in source water protection programs for the improved grade.

Murphy points to the 160 boil orders currently in effect in the province as the primary sign that much work is still needed before he would improve government’s grade. “Nothing is more basic than clean drinking water,” said Murphy. “Government can protect sources as much as it likes, and I would even question their record it that regard when it comes to, for example, Sandy Pond – but when thousands of people in this province still have to boil every drop that comes out of their taps, we have to acknowledge we have a problem.”

The tendency of the provincial government is to point the finger at municipalities for failing to maintain the systems needed but in reality, Murphy says, municipalities are cash-strapped and are forced to make difficult choices. The Dunderdale Conservatives provide limited revenue tools, forcing municipalities to, for example, turn off chlorination systems because they cannot maintain trained staff to properly run the systems.

The NDP has called for more investment in water and sewer installation and maintenance, as well as more research into systems that meet the unique geographic and topographic needs of this province.

“I hope government is not going to take this report as an excuse to stop work in this vital area,” Murphy noted. “It’s time to take the concerns of citizens and municipalities seriously.”

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