HUDSON’S HOPE, B.C. – Residents of Hudson’s Hope voiced concerns about the lack of acceptable drinking water in the community at a town hall meeting on Wednesday night.

This was the result of the new water treatment plant’s failure last Wednesday and the overall quality of the water supply since the treatment centre opened. 

The boil water advisory was declared last week after a mechanical failure at the plant kept the treatments that remove bacteria from the source water from functioning. 

About 50 concerned community members gathered in a hot room Wednesday evening. Pallets of water bottles and large water jugs—the town’s current source of potable water—lined the back of the hall.

The water is being shipped in from other centres. Every invoice for the water, along with other expenses arising from the lack of potable tap water in the town, is being invoiced to BC Hydro.

The question is whether it will all be paid.

Hudson’s Hope mayor, Dave Heiberg, notes that the crown corporation has paid for the invoices they have been sent regarding the operation of the facility. Whether or not that extends to emergency supplies after the plant’s failure is another question.

“We don’t have BC Hydro’s commitment yet,” Heiberg said. 

BC Hydro paid for the construction of the plant to replace Hudson’s Hope’s original source of potable water: the Peace River. Construction of the Site C Dam was considered by the crown corporation to be too much of a river disturbance to continue being used as a primary water source.

Heavy metals contaminants were a concern from members of the community, as well. 

One resident voiced concern for her granddaughter. “Is bathing in this effecting her tiny little body?” she asked.

Another, concerned for sickly and dying animals, specifically her horses.

Northern Health noted that tests would be done for these levels, but have not been performed yet. 

Heiberg confirmed this status for residents. 

The boil water advisory is an emergency and an incredible inconvenience for the community in general. It also brings the issue of tap water in the community to the forefront once more: BC Hydro’s ill-functioning solution has frustrated the community before.

“Before Wednesday, the water wasn’t acceptable,” one resident said. “No one’s happy with the well.”

The well, or aquifer, was developed to serve the town when BC Hydro decided that the construction along the river taking place for the Site C Dam would render the surface water of the Peace River—Hudson’s Hope old source of tap water—unusable. BC Hydro paid for the construction of the plant to pump and treat the water, but intends to transfer the plant’s costs to the community eventually.

Heiberg agreed with the resident, saying that more options have opened up since the plant’s failure on Wednesday. 

“The root problem, in my opinion,  was that our guys, our council never asked for this project,” he said. “We have never officially accepted it as our project.”

This sentiment, voiced without equivalency by Hudson’s Hope’s mayor, was not echoed by BC Hydro.

In a statement, BC Hydro said it recognizes it is aware of the situation and the challenges created for the community.

“Early in the project we committed to mitigating the effects of the dam and reservoir on the community’s infrastructure by replacing the District’s water treatment system,” the statement continued.

“As part of this commitment, the District chose to build a well system and BC Hydro provided the District with more than $4 million to fund the project, which was completed last year.” According to the statement, “the District managed the design, procurement and construction of this project.”

Residents have petitioned about the low quality of the water sourced from the aquifer since its inception over a year ago. The chlorinated taste, occasional foul smell, and concern about the underground source water were listed as consistent issues.

Options for the future discussed in the meeting did not seem to include keeping the aquifer running long-term.

Voices of residents in the room asked about different options, including a pipeline to dinosaur lake and an eventual return to the Peace River. 

Heiberg said that these suggestions were on the table. Moving forward, he said, “council will push [BC Hydro] as far as possible for options.”

But, in the meantime, residents are still boiling the bacteria-laden water pouring from their taps and packing jugs of water from the back of the community centre where the meeting was held. The emergent situation cannot be ignored.

“We need potable water, even if it’s not good water,” Heiberg said. “In the meanwhile, what options are available for an alternative water source?”

Grace Giesbrecht

Grace Giesbrecht is a news reporter for EnergeticCity.ca who recently graduated from Trinity Western University with a bachelor of arts in Media + Communications. She was born and raised just outside of Fort St. John. She began reporting for her university’s student newspaper and interned with Ottawa Life Magazine where she developed a passion for asking questions, telling stories, and the written word. In her free time, you can find her drinking coffee, snowboarding, or reading novels.