Vandalism shuts down one of Queen Charlotte’s wells

  • Jul. 11, 2003 12:00 p.m.

Vandals have cut the locks and damaged equipment at one of Queen Charlotte’s wells, making it unusable for the time being.
The management committee is investigating how to beef up security at all its equipment sites, says management committee chair Ron McKee.
All the equipment at the well site had locks, and a locked fence surrounds the wells, says Mr. McKee. It appears as if someone with bolt cutters or a similar tool snipped the locks. The vandal tampered with the automatic control panel and the aeration system and cut the lock on the well pipe.
Regional district director Carol Kulesha also expressed concern about the incident. “Someone is attempting to tamper with our water and if anyone knows anything, please contact the RCMP,” she says.
Well #1 was turned off as soon as the vandalism was discovered. Maintenance workers tested the water for contamination, and found coliform bacteria in the sample. Coliform bacteria is used as an indicator in water testing because it is difficult to kill.
“If you kill all the coliform in the water then it ensures all the other bacteria is dead,” says maintenance supervisor Victor La Boucane.
However, the coliform test is very sensitive. “99 per cent of the time when a coliform test comes back positive, it was a problem with the testing,” says Mr. La Boucane. For instance, some dust can get on the sample collection lid or bacteria on the hose used for the sample can easily contaminate the water. The well site has no proper sample point, he says. Instead water is taken from a hose, and that can be enough to give a positive sample.
After the first test showed coliform in the water, Mr. La Boucane chlorinated the water and let it run through the well for a couple of hours to kill any bacteria that might be there. The second test showed coliform as well. Mr. La Boucane chlorinated the well again, and is now waiting for the results of the third test.
Water from well #1 “will not be going to the town until a negative sample comes back from the lab,” says Mr. La Boucane.
Well #1, located in the hills above Queen Charlotte, is one of the original wells drilled when the town first installed a water system during the 1980s. Well #1 produces between 30 and 40 thousand gallons of water per day.
Most of Queen Charlotte’s water used to come from wells #11 and 12 at the Tarundl River, but last year testing showed salt water beginning to seep into well #12, and it was shut down to recharge with fresh water. Well #1 began producing water to supplement well #11.
Since the vandalism, the management committee has had to begin using well #12 again, which is a problem because the well needs to rest in order to recharge.