UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a statement from BC Hydro.
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – A group of Old Fort residents gathered at Gate B of Site C Wednesday afternoon in an attempt to get BC Hydro to schedule an in-person community meeting after the company reportedly ignored their concerns regarding construction impacts.
Residents say they’ve had multiple meetings over the phone individually with the company, and while the company has spoken with the residents, Hydro reportedly hasn’t taken any action.
They say the goal of Wednesday’s protest is to get BC Hydro to arrange an in-person community meeting to make a plan to address their concerns.
The locals say with the construction moving closer and closer to their community, their main concern is the severe amount of dust that has been caused by the construction.
Scott Logan, a resident of Old Fort, says that his mother, as well as his son, have been having respiratory issues because of the dust in the area.
“Since she’s been down here for coming on 10 days, she has had to close up every window in the house. She can’t go outside. When she does, she’s just coughing and hacking,” Logan said.
“My son has allergies. He’s been visiting for the last 10 days and is struggling to sleep every night. It’s been a windy week, and there’s just constant dust,” Logan continued.
BC Hydro responded to Energeticcity’s request for comment, solely addressing resident concern’s about the dust.
Bob Gammer, manager of Site C community relations, says he and a BC Hydro construction manager spoke with protestors for “about an hour,” and they are now working to mitigate the impacts of dust from construction work.
“This includes applying water on non-paved roads and other areas of the project. We will also be increasing the number of water trucks and will begin using a dust suppression treatment product on gravel roads to help suppress dust as soon as possible,” said Gammer.
“We have also offered some residents the opportunity to have a mobile dust monitoring device deployed on their property to better understand the airborne dust concentration at their residence.”
Inhabitants of Old Fort say the dust also finds its way inside their homes and mentioned health concerns that have affected their family members.
The resident says his son and other kids in the neighbourhood won’t go outside to play anymore because they have difficulty breathing.
“The local kids are having a hard time breathing. They’re all getting stuffed up. Nobody wants to go outside, their eyes are burning. You can taste the dust in your mouth just being outside for an hour,” he said.
He also alleges that when he mentioned his concerns to BC Hydro six months ago, the company reportedly told him that they had plans to mitigate dust in the area.
Multiple protest participants mentioned that they worry that there is also silicon in the air.
While BC Hydro responded to resident claims surrounding dust, they did not comment on some of the resident’s other concerns.
Residents say that traffic has increased significantly since construction began, raising anxieties around safety.
“The corner near Gate B is a blind corner. Trucks are constantly pulling out. It’s a matter of time before there’s a bad accident,” the resident said.
They add that in the winter, Old Fort Road isn’t maintained regularly, causing many trucks to “spin out.”
Locals also allege that trucks aren’t chaining up properly and claim that the road isn’t being patrolled as needed.
Other concerns multiple protesters mentioned were landslides and the issues that may arise from them.
“We got our slide that’s made it to the back channel. They’re out front of the slide now, and they’re digging that river deeper. So essentially, they’re removing the toe of the slide which may reactivate that landslide,” Logan claimed.
“We are fearful of the dam as well. There’s a big stigma around it, and we don’t feel like we really have a chance to move out of the area because of that stigma. We feel like we’ve been impacted with our property values as well,” the resident said.
RCMP attended the protest but vacated the scene soon after.