More than 50 residents packed into the Hudson’s Hope community hall Wednesday night for a town hall addressing the ongoing issues with the water treatment plant.
Mayor Dave Heiberg says BC Hydro is being invoiced for all expenses incurred by the plant’s failure, including the cost of hauling supplemental water from Chetwynd and Fort St. John, bottled water for residents, and more.
“The whole system failed and it was unexpected to us – unexpected in the terms that we knew that we needed to do something with the water because water consumption at this time of year is higher than normal,” he said.
While a figure couldn’t be offered on the total cost, Heiberg says BC Hydro has paid for some invoices related to the operation failure, but it’s unclear how far that liability extends.
“BC Hydro is reluctant to look at anything further down the line,” Heiberg said. “Even before we had a problem last Wednesday, the water still isn’t acceptable to us, period. It’s not what we want.”
The building of a berm for Site C construction necessitated the switch from river-drawn water to an groundwater aquifer, due to concerns over turbidity making the river water unsafe to drink. BC Hydro paid for test wells and the new plant.
Bacteria that thrives in oxygen-rich environments is reacting with iron to create a biofilm which clogs the pre-filters, osmosis filters, and the aerator. Hydrogen sulfide gas is also present in the mix and was expected to be aerated out.
Residents voiced strong concerns over both the safety and quality of the water, with some alleging BC Hydro knew the aquifer wouldn’t work. Others suggested a return to river water and the old plant.
One resident, Bonnie Leney, alleged that the water contained enough contaminants to kill one of her horses, and wants to see the water tested for heavy metals.
“I had a horse die three weeks ago. I was going to take him to the vet and do an autopsy and come back after, because I know for a fact that it’s the water,” she said.
Heiberg said the district is willing to get samples to Northern Health for further testing. The health authority issued the boil water notice over the iron bacteria and biofilm buildup.
Resident Wenonah Rosenberger said BC Hydro hasn’t delivered on its promises to Hudson’s Hope, suggesting a pipeline be installed from Dinosaur Lake to access river water.
“They said we would never have to worry about water as a town, we would have lots of water,” she said.
Heiberg also clarified that the switch to the new plant was never a project commissioned by the District of Hudson’s Hope, nor has it accepted ownership of the facility – it was to stay in the hands of BC Hydro until the district felt it was operating at an acceptable level.
“We never took over the water treatment plant, because it was never working properly,” said Heiberg. “Our council never asked for this project, we were given this project, not once were we asked to take it – it’s not in our capital planning, it’s not in our strategic plan.”
In the meantime, the district will continue to offer bottled water at no costs to residents, alternating days – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 2 pm to 8 pm.
Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative.
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Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alaska Highway News