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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Old Fort residents continue raising issues surrounding the dam project with BC Hydro, who says they are doing everything possible.
Old Fort residents have been affected by work at the Site C dam since construction began, and they have been trying to raise these issues directly with BC Hydro.
BC Hydro had told residents there was a plan in place before residents held a protest in July.
The July protest led to a meeting, where it became clear the two groups’ expectations did not align.
Following a second meeting between BC Hydro representatives and Old Fort residents last week, Kelly Ziebart says there still wasn’t a lot of resolution.
Director of Area C, Brad Sperling, was also disappointed with the results of the meetings.
“Very disappointed in the meeting with Mr. O’Riley. No concern for the resident’s quality of life over the last several years with the dust, noise and traffic control only getting worse with no assurance that these will be addressed,” Sperling said.
“They don’t seem to care who they step on to get this dam built.”
One of the issues residents raise is the dust from construction at the dam. Residents claim the dust is making homes and vehicles dirty, inside and out, and making it hard to breathe.
Bob Gammer, a BC Hydro spokesperson, says they have been doing what they can to mitigate dust.
“We’ve also done increased dust suppression on the main construction site, which is watering all of the construction roads, putting down calcium chloride, which kind of creates a cap on the road and keep the dust down,” Gammer said.
He says they relocated crushing works further from the Old Fort.
Additionally, BC Hydro has dust monitoring stations to monitor the dust 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Gammer says they know these mitigations help but don’t eliminate the dust.
“We continue to talk to them, and in some cases, some residents have requested temporary relocation for a period of time,” he said.
BC Hydro has put some families in hotels as a form of respite from the noise and dust, according to Gammer.
Another issue Old Fort residents have is the construction noise, which BC Hydro says it can’t do much about.
“I’d like to put the audio of all my recordings next to their house through the night and see if their wives and family or husbands enjoy it as much as mine does,” Ziebart said.
Another request BC Hydro had from residents is house washing, which Gammer says has been done for a few residents and will continue, weather permitting.
Once winter sets in, this will no longer be an option, however.
Another winter concern is road safety, which Gammer says is the responsibility of B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
“We want to work with the agencies responsible for the roads and also with the Old Fort residents so that we can help keep the roads clear and safe,” he said.
Over the weekend, Ziebart went through Site C as a “test run” to see how long it would take to leave or for emergency crews to go in if the road into Old Fort got blocked. BC Hydro reached out to him about conducting the test.
Ziebart says the test run was only one part of the larger problem.
“Really, they just address all of our concerns as temporary and don’t really have an outcome for them,” he said.
Ziebart says they offered to clean houses inside and out, but Gammer says they did not provide inside cleaning.
Ultimately, Ziebert says he would like compensation.
“We’re just asking BC Hydro to compensate each household for pain and suffering, for health and safety concerns, loss of property value and loss of property enjoyment,” Ziebart said.
“And they just think all of this is just temporary, and really, from their inactions, it shows that they’re not really thinking anything is very important or feasible.”
Construction on the estimated $16 billion Site C dam started in 2015 and is expected to be finished in 2025.
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