Isolating Site C workers will not be moved into Fort St. John, BC Hydro says

Site C workers who need to self-isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic will not be moved into Fort St. John, BC Hydro says.

In a statement Wednesday, BC Hydro said it made the commitment to local mayors and elected officials on March 22.

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"BC Hydro’s top priority on the Site C project will always be the safety of our employees, workers and people living in the community," the company said in a statement.

"We look forward to further conversations with the City of Fort St. John to discuss the measures we’re taking to keep workers and the community safe, while reducing the potential impact on local hospitals and medical facilities."

There are no confirmed cases of the virus at the site, BC Hydro said, and there were 12 workers in isolation at the camp as of March 24. The company has not said how many workers have been tested.

"The project is strictly following provincial health guidelines at site and we will continue to work with Northern Health to develop an acceptable approach to moving workers back to their homes," BC Hydro said.

"Site C is an important project for the local economy and we will continue to move the project forward on critical work areas."

On Tuesday, the city declared a state of emergency, which gives it a range of extraordinary powers, including the control of travel to or from any area of B.C. and the ability to co-ordinate emergency medical services. It does not place any further public health restrictions on residents or businesses to manage the outbreak of the virus in the province.

The present concern is the potential for a local outbreak of the COVID-19 virus caused by industry and fly-in resource workers, particularly at Site C, and there are fears about sick workers overwhelming the city's hospital and health care resources.

There are still numerous outstanding concerns that have yet to be addressed by BC Hydro, including how many of its workers have been tested, how many local workers are self-isolating with symptoms at home in the PRRD, whether locals are being required to stay in the work camp to minimize the potential for local spread of the virus, whether workers are being offered incentive pay, and whether there have been changes made to the rotation and scheduling of worker shifts and the frequency of charter flights of fly-in workers.

BC Hydro has not yet responded to a request for comment.

There were 856 people in the camp as of March 24.

Coun. Byron Stewart said Tuesday that the project should be shut down until the pandemic is over.

"It is not an emergency service, it is not a front line service," Stewart said. "I personally would just like to see the province step in and shut it down, and send everybody home."

Full BC Hydro statement follows:

BC Hydro’s top priority on the Site C project will always be the safety of our employees, workers and people living in the community.

There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the Site C project.

Following a conversation with local mayors and elected officials on March 22, BC Hydro committed that it would not move any Site C worker in self-isolation at camp into the city.

We look forward to further conversations with the City of Fort St. John to discuss the measures we’re taking to keep workers and the community safe, while reducing the potential impact on local hospitals and medical facilities.

The project is strictly following provincial health guidelines at site and we will continue to work with Northern Health to develop an acceptable approach to moving workers back to their homes.

Site C is an important project for the local economy and we will continue to move the project forward on critical work areas.

This is a developing story.

© Copyright Alaska Highway News

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