Just as the Yarmouth area was about to get some rain -- which turned into heavy rain -- the provincial government issued a press release Tuesday, saying the province is helping residents affected by the water shortage in southwest Nova Scotia.
After months of dry conditions, the area was getting a soaking. Environment Canada had even issued a rainfall warning, saying that a low-pressure system will pass just south of Nova Scotia tonight. A band of heavy rain associated with the system will affect southernmost counties this evening. The heaviest rainfall is forecast for southern sections of these counties, where 50 to 90 mm can be expected. Lesser amounts of 20 to 45 can be expected for northern sections. Precipitation will taper to scattered showers or drizzle overnight tonight.
The rain is a much welcome sight to those who have been impacted by the dry conditions over the summer.
In its media release, the proivnce said its Emergency Management Office has been working with the municipalities of Argyle, Barrington and Yarmouth for several months to make sure residents with dry wells have access to drinking water.
"With this summer’s dry conditions, particularly in southwestern Nova Scotia, municipalities, volunteer fire departments and other organizations have worked together to help residents whose wells are dry," said Chuck Porter, minister responsible for the Emergency Management Office.
Dry conditions are ongoing and EMO is working with the Retail Council of Canada to purchase drinking water as needed.
“As the voice of retail in Canada, we are pleased to once again offer our support to the effort to assist families in southwestern Nova Scotia,” said Jim Cormier, director, Atlantic Canada, Retail Council of Canada. “We will work with our members to supply bottled water for distribution to people in need.”
The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal will provide non-potable water in tanker trucks for local fire departments to distribute to residents.
Emergency Management Office staff will continue to monitor the situation and work with municipalities to address their needs.
On Friday, Sept. 14, in the legislature, Argyle-Barrington MLA Chris d’Entremont asked Porter about the drought conditions and dry wells in southern Nova Scotia.
“For the second time in three years, residents of southwestern Nova Scotia are experiencing severe drought conditions,” d’Entremont said. “Wells run dry and more and more continue to run dry every day. Hundreds of residents need assistance in getting access to a sufficient water supply to operate their homes. They can't shower. They can't wash their clothes. They can't wash dishes or even flush their toilet.”
He asked the minister to share what his department is doing to bring some relief to the residents of southwestern Nova Scotia affected by the dry conditions.
In his response, Porter said he first wanted to thank the affected municipal units and their volunteers, including fire departments, in helping people deal with the water situation.
The minister said that on Thursday morning, Sept. 13, he had spoken, via conference call, with the wardens of Yarmouth, Argyle and Barrington “to discuss further their request and clarify their immediate needs, from there directed our provincial EMO centre to begin immediately co-ordinating efforts for drinking water, and for larger non-potable amounts of water to be sent out to Argyle ... we will also discuss further in the long term what that assistance may look like.”
D’Entremont also had a question for Yarmouth MLA and Education and Early Childhood Development Zach Churchill.
“In the drought of 2016,” d’Entremont said, “facilities around the area were open to those affected and I was specifically thinking of the Mariners Centre in Yarmouth, and area schools. The decision on schools, at the time, fell to the school board to help the municipalities come up with some options and, as I understand, that decision will now fall under the minister (of education) and his department.”
D’Entremont asked Churchill if he had been involved in any discussions to make schools available – he cited Plymouth School and Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School as examples – outside of classroom hours and whether this was under consideration.
Churchill responded, “I've been in contact with the district in my constituency, Yarmouth. We got them in contact with EMO. Today, we have not had any requests to open up school facilities but, of course, if that is needed, we'll be happy to take a look at that and take action. Our regional executive director, Paul Ash, is very responsive to local concerns as they come in. He's been doing a great job managing that office on our behalf and we'll be sure that the system is there to support those in need.”