Water intake below dump is OK, meeting hears

  • Oct. 26, 2007 6:00 a.m.

By Heather Ramsay–Water taken from below the old dump seems to meet drinking water standards, but many Queen Charlotte residents still don’t want to take the risk.Approximately 40 people attended an Oct. 23 public meeting to discuss a report analyzing landfill leachate and the impact it may have on the Honna River as a drinking water source. “I thought this issue was dead 10 years ago,” said Queen Charlotte resident Duncan White.He was surprised to learn that the Stanley Lake Water Project village council has been discussing for the last couple of years did not include using Stanley Lake as a water source. The project involves a storage catchment at Stanley Lake which when released slowly will help increase low flows in the Honna in the summer. The drinking water intake is proposed to be built up river from the Honna River Bridge on the Honna Road.Mr. White said community members decided years ago they didn’t want to drink water from below the old dump, located 180 metres north of the river. But a report prepared by Piteau Associates, a geotechnical and hydrogeological firm, concludes there is no scientific reason not to collect drinking water from below the dump. Andrew Holmes, the engineer who wrote the report, noted citizens’ concerns about the proximity of the water source to areas filled with orange mucky leachate, but characterized them as aesthetic.He says the leachate sample collected from the toe of the landfill showed higher than expected concentrations of iron, manganese and lead, but the sample collected nearer to the river showed the concentrations had reduced significantly. With the help of additional dilution in the river itself, by the time any leachate gets to the proposed intake, the water will easily meet drinking water guidelines.Several residents were concerned that there could be containers in the landfill with toxic substances in them that have not yet broken down, which could add to the concentrations. Mr. Holmes said that his firm has studied landfills for 25 years, and has found that increased concentrations are not likely to happen. “Have you heard of Murphy’s Law?” asked Bernd Fouquet. People also questioned whether taking samples in August is representative of how the leachate might move throughout rainier months. Mr. Holmes pointed to a picture of rocks in the river below the dump and said the rocks would be stained with characteristic orange leachate slime if it was getting to the river.Ron Craig, the drinking water leader with Northern Health who has the authority to okay a drinking water permit at the site, said his office will approve the intake below the dump.Brian Walker from Dayton and Knight, a Vancouver-based engineering firm that has been working with local government on the town water system over the past 20 years, was also at the meeting.He said that moving the intake above the dump will cost an estimated $850,000 over the $375,000 already spent on the design, environmental and archaeological assessments at the lower site.”If money wasn’t an issue, what would you recommend?” Anita Molenaar asked the engineers.Mr. Holmes admitted he would put the intake above the landfill.”I’d do the safest thing,” he said.The new site would include a rough road and three-phase power to the Honna River from above the old landfill, and a more heavy duty pumping system to lift the water 60 metres instead of 20 m from the river. Mayor Carol Kulesha said she went to the Union of BC Municipalities with the additional cost in mind to see if she could find more funding. The town has $3.2 million in grants from the province, the Gwaii Trust and the Coast Sustainability Trust secured for the water system plan as it stands now.She was not successful in finding more money, but said she would continue looking. She said the village may have to look at borrowing the money and raising it back from the town’s 398 water user accounts.”We can’t do nothing. We need more water,” she said. Queen Charlotte has been trying to find a solution for water in the town for several years. The Tarundl Creek wells do not provide sufficient capacity in the peak summer months and attempts to find new wells have been unsuccessful.No decisions were made, but Mayor Kulesha says the water system will be on the QC Council’s agenda at its Nov. 5 meeting.