“It’s beyond Hydro and the district now:” Hudson’s Hope residents press for transparency and solutions to treatment plant

HUDSON’S HOPE, B.C. – Community members and business owners in Hudson’s Hope are refusing to accept the lack of drinkable water in the town and are calling on the province for answers.

Several residents have formed the Hudson’s Hope Water Recovery Committee to seek further transparency from BC Hydro and the District of Hudson’s Hope.

The group plans to start a letter-writing campaign in an effort to involve elected officials and the provincial government.

“It’s not ours:” seeking transparency and responsibility for the well

Caitlin Vince, owner of the Peakes Arts and Events Centre, is a committee member who is frustrated by the lack of transparency or responsibility taken for the water treatment plant’s failure. 

“Who’s project is it?” Vince wondered aloud. “Hydro says ‘it’s not ours,’ the district says ‘not ours, we didn’t want it.’” she said.

The water treatment plant was paid for by BC Hydro after construction required for the Site C Dam threatened access to the town’s previous water source on the Peace River. The crown corporation considers the aquifer and the plant to treat the water from it the District of Hudson’s Hope’s project. On the other hand, the district lays responsibility at the feet of BC Hydro.

“It seems like there’s confusion on all ends because BC Hydro is washing their hands of the whole thing,” Vince said. 

Unable to wash their hands— or anything else— of the issue, the committee wants to see all information pertaining to the agreement between BC Hydro and the district for the original construction of the well and treatment plant. Though some of the agreement is public already, Vince says, the committee wants to see more.

It is looking for the answer to who is responsible, ultimately, for the well. And several members of the committee are certain that BC Hydro will eventually be determined responsible.

“A number of people on the water recovery committee believe that BC Hydro is responsible for providing us with the same quality and quantity of water as before,” Vince said. “And the well project never worked from the beginning.”

“Reparations need to be made. [But] BC Hydro disagrees with that.”

Though bills are being forwarded by the district for all expenses required to distribute bottled water to residents, plans for any future solutions have yet to be made.

BC Hydro representatives agreed on Thursday to reimburse district expenses from the point the treatment plant failed until it is able to supply potable water. This includes hauling water to fill the reservoir; purchasing bottled water; and all repairs, materials, and expertise needed to fix the plant.

Involving the province

The committee is also organizing a letter-writing campaign to elected officials to get the province involved in the issue—and, hopefully, involved in a long-term remedy for the situation.

Amanda Brown, another member of the committee, knows that this conversation has to be larger than Hudson’s Hope itself.

“I think that, as much as BC hydro plays a role in it, [as much as] our district plays a role in it, our province really needs to step up and look at this area and how to protect the people in this area,” she said. 

“There’s a really big conversation here that our province needs to start to be able to help us here. It’s beyond hydro and the district now.”

The letter is drafted, Vince said, and waiting for more information from the district before it is ready for people to see, sign, and send out. 

Long-term solutions, according to residents, must go farther than simply repairing the struggling plant. 

The waiting game: fear and inconvenience

Speaking from the Pearkes Arts and Events centre amidst house plants and a garden that, like humans, requires water to thrive, Brown said she understands that it will take time to get the plant running safely again.

“Now we’re just in this waiting game,” she said.

A “do not consume” order, unlike the boil water advisory in place for a portion of July and August, means that water should not be used, even after boiling.

While wildly inconvenient for residents, who have been able to get jugs of water from the District of Hudson’s Hope that must be rationed for drinking, cooking, and cleaning, the failure of the treatment system and the “do not consume” advisory have also created a significant amount of fear in the community.

The concern that kids, especially, could swallow the water they brush their teeth with or drink from the garden hose with the same seasonal abandon of summers past, is paramount.

“It’s a mental strain, all the time. You’re thinking, ‘oh, did my three-year-old accidentally fill her cup from the tap?’” Vince said. 

She and her family leave town to bathe and shower on her mother’s ranch. Other families bring soap and shampoo to the lakes they used to shower after swimming in.

Hudson’s Hope’s water treatment plant has been unable to filter the water it pulls from the ground properly since July 21st. The boil water notice was upgraded to a do not consume advisory on August 9th.

Though necessary repair parts have been ordered, the district says the plant will likely not be running for another month. Cleaning and flushing the system will take much of that time.

A meeting between the district and BC Hydro that contain a discussion of various long-term solutions, the district says, is set for September 9th.

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