Village slows water project, waits for test

  • Jul. 18, 2007 2:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay–Queen Charlotte council tapped the brakes on the community’s now-controversial water project by delaying the decision on who will build the intake system.Mayor Carol Kulesha said council was supposed to vote on which of two bidders for the Honna River Intake and Supply Pipeline project would be given the contract at the July 17 council meeting. The intake is supposed to be built near the Honna Bridge, close to the existing treatment plant. But the intake is also below an abandoned village dump, a fact that is now causing public concern. The village is now waiting to see what will be found during tests of a sample taken from a culvert poking out from under the old landfill. Queen Charlotte resident Don Plumb initiated tours of the old dump site on the weekend and Councillor Kris Olsen attended. He saw firsthand the murky, unknown effluent collecting in a region several hundred metres up a steep slope from the Honna. He returned to town, found the town’s interim public works superintendent Ben Greenough, and went back to collect the samples. “I just want to know what’s in this stuff,” he said at the council meeting. To complicate matters, the village only has until August 15 to do work in the fish-bearing stream, as directed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Mr. Olsen thinks the project should be delayed until next year. He questioned whether the work could be done within the fish window anyway and also told council he thinks the water intake should end up at Stanley Lake, not below the landfill.Mayor Kulesha says the village is in the process of reviewing all documents and communicating with their engineering firm, and with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Northern Health and others about what needs to be looked at. She did not rule out proceeding with the project as planned but said council would wait to take the advice of their engineers. Mayor Kulesha said a 2005 study looked at whether water could be collected directly at Stanley Lake, but determined the amount of money needed would be difficult to raise. She can call a meeting with 24-hours notice to make a decision on the bidders and asked for a motion from council to wait until more information is received. Councillor Gladys Noddin made the motion. She said council will proceed slowly and with caution for the sake of the residents.”We also have to drink the water,” she said. “And don’t want to drink contaminated water either.” She said the project can still be delayed when more information is received. Council voted on the motion and it was passed by Councillors Noddin, Eric Ross and Mayor Kulesha. Councillor Olsen opposed. At the end of the meeting, members of the public voiced their concerns as well. Queen Charlotte resident Walter Noddin urged council to use its authority to stop the project. He said governments allow citizens to drink a certain amount of poison, be it chlorine, bleach or other substances. The levels of toxicity coming from the Honna River may end up being within this range, but he’d rather not drink it. “If we can avoid it, why not go above (the landfill)?” “It’s a risk and you are aware of it,” said another resident Alanah Mountifield. She said council should not put monetary concerns ahead of people’s health. She’s willing to pay $1,000 a year out of her pocket to ensure the drinking water is clean and thinks others would too. She questioned whether the testing done above and below the dump site was adequate to determine what type of toxins might be in the water. Others wondered if the leachate was not showing up in water tests now, would it several years from now? Ms Mountifield said it’s a question of mental health too. Having seen the sludge from the landfill, she has experienced anxiety about the water project. “Common sense says don’t do it, and I believe science will too,” she said. The two bidders for the Honna River Intake and supply pipeline were Adventure Paving ($427,816) and Dave’s Backhoe Service ($292,660). Dayton and Knight are the consulting engineers and have recommended council take the lowest bid.