Roadside water in Stephenville is sip at your own risk

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Roadside water in Stephenville is sip at your own risk

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is concerned for the safety of people drinking water from a roadside spring on the province's west coast.

Thirsty residents of Stephenville and the surrounding area wait up to an hour on the Hansen Highway to collect the spring water for drinking and cooking, saying it is pristine and free of chlorine and limestone.

But the provincial government does not test roadside springs and said the water is not safe to drink. 

Believed to be overflow from private well

"This guy here has an artesian well," said Lewis Jesso, pointing to a house next door to the spring as he filled his large water bottle.

"It's coming from the well. It's overflow," he said.

Jesso and his wife Theresa drive in from Cape St. George two or three times a week for this water. Theresa Jesso said the chlorine in her tap water upsets her stomach.

"It's very very nice, it's very good. everybody comes here," she said.

More than a dozen vehicles line the highway, waiting for water at lunch hour. Many live in Stephenville and say their tap water has a gross metal taste.

But Mayor Tom Rose disagrees and said Stephenville has one of the best water treatment facilities in the province. 

"It is clear, it is pristine, it is safe," Rose said.

Tested tap water

Rose said 20 years ago, there was more chlorine in the water system, and the city used to spend $100,000 a year on chlorine but now spends only $10,000 a year.

"Our water systems are tested and we have checks and balances, quality control and we use the latest technologies to ensure that the water going out to the residents of Stephenville is really good," Rose said. 

In statement to CBC, the Department of Health said springs are not tested by the provincial government, as the water is not protected or treated, and any test would only be a snapshot of the water quality at that given time.

The government recommends people not drink water from these types of locations.