For several weeks now, the town of Woody Point in Gros Morne National park has been under a boil order. I’ve never before been in an area with a boil order imposed. In my past experience the water is either OK to drink or it’s not. So, rather than reading the notice in the post office I carried on as normal until someone actually pointed it out to me.
I don’t want to get anyone worried. The town council assures us that it’s purely a precautionary measure. Plus, I know of several people who continue to drink the tap water with little to no discernible ill effect (although I seriously recommend adhering to the boil order).
Most people driving around Gros Morne National Park will have noticed hoses in the hillsides or small signs reading ‘WATER’. These usually indicate small brooks or streams from which people find the water particularly tasty. The official line from the health authorities is that we shouldn’t drink this water as it’s fairly likely to be unclean and may contain beaver fever. (Which, it turns out, is a really and pretty horrible illness and not just people having me on). Nevertheless, it was to these streams that a large proportion of the community turned, once the boil order was imposed.
It seemed pretty strange to me that people would go against medical advice, but lots of these people’s families have been drinking from the same streams for generations, and they seem to have no intention of stopping anytime soon! In the UK I would never even consider drinking from a stream. It’s not just the dead sheep regularly found in the brooks, it’s stories I was told as a child of farming chemicals finding their way into the rivers and unscrupulous abattoirs. But I took the attitude of ‘when in Rome…’ and followed the lead of seasoned stream drinkers.
Whenever I’ve drank straight from the streams it’s been cool and refreshing, if a little muddy. During the boil order we’ve been drinking stream water from jugs in the fridge and it’s been fine. What’s been really great is seeing how enthusiastic people are about it here! My friend warned me against leaving a container in the car as “it’s the best water there is” and people are willing to walk reasonable distances to reach their favourite sources. Even if it includes carrying it out in rucksacks! (This may be standard behaviour for active, non-British people.) People also like comparing the brooks and giving tips on where to find the sweetest water. To me, it’s all pretty similar. Perhaps that’s just because I don’t have that refined a palette. But I’m going to keep trying and maybe one day I’ll be a connoisseur!
NB, If you’re not in the know please just drink bottled water. It’s really not worth getting sick!