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As CUPE activists in Newfoundland and Labrador gathered for a Water Watch Conference in St. John’s this month (Sept. 22-23), Premier Roger Grimes appeared to be distancing himself from any plans to export his province’s fresh water in bulk.

More than 30 CUPE local leaders and activists used the weekend conference to tackle and debate such issues as the St. John’s Harbour cleanup, bulk water exports, water quality issues and the fight against privatization of water and wastewater.

A report in the St. John’s Telegram Saturday, September 22, said Grimes was cancelling public consultations on his plan, saying it wasn’t turning out to be as profitable as he had thought.

Beni Malone of the Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP) kicked off the conference with a hard-hitting presentation on the harbour cleanup, complete with graphic pictures of what he described as a 400-year-old, open toilet.

St. John’s, along with other Canadian coastal cities such as Halifax and Victoria, continues to dump raw sewage into the harbour. The Newfoundland capitol dumps 120 million litres of human waste a year into the relatively small harbour.

CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador Division President Wayne Lucas says as a result of the conference, there are now plans to set up Water Watch committees in coalition with groups like ACAP, CFS and the Council of Canadians to continue to fight these issues.

They’ll also be supporting initiatives by ACAP and others to get the federal government to kick in its one-third share of the infrastructure money needed to clean up the harbour.