BC Hydro says it will pay up to $500,000 to help cover the costs of repairing Hudson’s Hope failed water treatment plant but a group of residents say it should also fund a new water source for the community.
The Hudson’s Hope Water Recovery Committee says the community was promised a water supply “of the same quality and quantity” when its system was changed to make way for Site C dam construction.
The community had previously drawn water from the Peace River, and now drawing from a groundwater well that has been feeding a new treatment plant opened last year.
But the well supply and the plant have been plagued by numerous bacterial and chemical problems ever since, with a full mechanical failure of the treatment plant in July.
The community water system remains under a do not consume order, and residents won’t know until later this month whether they'll have clean drinking water again.
“Prior to Site C construction, our community had abundant, clean drinking water,” the committee wrote in an open letter released Thursday.
“We can not stress enough how devastating this water crisis is to our community; it is adversely affecting individuals, families, seniors, businesses, tourism, and the housing market.”
Hudson’s Hope Mayor Heiberg has acknowledged numerous times that the town’s water quality has not been acceptable since the switchover. An update on repairs being made to the plant is expected on Friday.
Last week, Heiberg said the district would be reimbursed for a range of its costs since responding to the failure, including invoices for repair as well as for hauling water and purchasing bottled water.
BC Hydro said it would pay up to half a million of the costs, but the committee says it believes the company should be responsible for paying more, including "[a]ll associatied future costs for a new water source since the initial 'project' has failed."
The community has no guarantees the water well won't fail once again once the treatment plant is fixed, the committee said.
"BC Hydro forced our community off our primary water source, promising to 'make us whole' under the Community Agreement, and they have not fulfilled their commitment," the committee said.
In other letters, local businesses say the rationing of bottled water supplies is having an impact on their business.
Others are suggesting a plan of action to reimburse businesses for their lost business.
Janet Hammock, owner of the Sportsman’s Inn, says she’s so far spent about $1,100 on water and ice for her business, which includes a restaurant.
“The water issue has also deterred some of my motel customers from staying in Hudson’s Hope. People that don’t have to stay in our town for work or pleasure prefer not to stay here,” she writes in an Aug. 19 letter. “I can’t say that I blame them.”
The Stillwater Inn and Suites says a large group of long-term guests was supposed to stay in its hotel until September but checked out early due to the water crisis.
“Guests are afraid to book while the no-consumption policy is in effect, choosing to stay in Chetwynd or Fort St. John,” Ron Brar wrote in an Aug. 10 letter addressed to the mayor.
“This is not fair as summer traffic is usually our busiest time of the year due to limited construction season windows in the North," he said.
One restaurant owner in a letter called the current quality of the town's water "DISGUSTING!"
"It is so nasty, that EVERYTHING smells like it, and it's nauseating," they wrote.
Brar confirmed, saying his housekeepers are also spending more time cleaning rooms due to the “residue” being left by the water in tubs, toilets, and sinks. Recently paid utility bills for water and sewer have amounted to $15,000, though there is no water service, he said.
“I would strongly suggest the District and BC Hydro come up with a plan on how we may be reimbursed for these economic hardships, as it is quickly adding up in dollars by the day," he wrote in his letter.
Scott and Denise Linley, owners of the local grocery store, say the provincial government needs to solve what they called a "frustrating situation" for their business and community. They say the region pays a high per capita share of provincial tax revenues as an energy producing hub of the province.
"Now we need all the support from the provice that is required - as they own the Crown corporation that has created this problem by insisting the municipality get water from a well/aquifer," they wrote.
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