Water issue discussed at Queen Charlotte council

  • Jul. 9, 2007 1:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay–At least two people called the Queen Charlotte Village office with concerns about the possibility of leach ate in the town’s planned water source in the Honna River, Village Administrator Andrew Yeates told Council at the July 3 meeting. A recent call for tenders to supply the water intake on the river has sparked renewed interest in the project, which will source water from the Honna River at a spot below the old wood and municipal landfill site on the QC Mainline logging road.At the council meeting, Mr. Yeates reviewed what he had found in the files on the planning for the project. He said the genesis of the project began in the early 1990s when well water was found to be in short supply, but became more finite around 2000. A search for water sources to augment the town’s existing well water was undertaken in 2002. Mr. Yeates says the search did not reveal a well site able to produce the quantity needed by the town. The Honna was identified as a possible source for surface water. The towns existing wells are high in iron and manganese and two primary wells are subject to sea water intrusion, plus they do not meet the demand in the community.In 2005, consultants Dayton and Knight prepared a water supply study which summarized previous reports and recommended following through on the Honna River system. Mr. Yeates notes this report is available on the Queen Charlotte website.Mr. Yeates says the water intake is planned up from the bridge on the Honna Road, far below the old landfill site. He says Dayton and Knight conducted a full year of testing at two sites above and below the landfill site for the report. The results show “nothing unknown or suspicious, dangerous, untreatable or unexpected,” said Mayor Carol Kulesha at the council meeting.But QC resident Rolf Bettner, who attended the July 3 meeting, isn’t satisfied.He says the Honna is not like other creeks on the islands. He described the luxurious algae forms growing at the mouth and suggested this could be evidence of some pollutant. “I’m reminded of creeks where farming with fertilizers takes place, or there is some effluent in the water,” he says. “It’s got to be leachate,” he said.Mayor Kulesha said the project is not something that has been put together in the last few months. “All the different branches of government have been involved.” She told Mr. Bettner, “I hope you fully understand the process before saying something that may upset or scare the public.” “We have done our due diligence. That is part of our job.” The Dayton and Knight report notes that the existing treatment facility must be expanded to address the water quality issues specific to the Honna River surface water. The Observer tried to reach several officials involved in water quality, including the local Fisheries Canada Habitat biologist, and water quality staff with the Ministry of the Environment in Smithers. All were on vacation. We finally did reach an official in Victoria.”It is always better to site these things above a contaminate source,” said Les Swain, Water Quality Monitoring Specialist with the Ministry of the Environment in Victoria. He didn’t have any specific knowledge of this project, but suggested a first step for anyone who is concerned would be ground truthing the site of the landfill by looking for signs that leachate is getting into the water way. Mayor Kulesha said the village would not be able to use the water source if it did not pass the requirements that Health Canada and Northern Health have place on the project. She said even to get grants, the village must pass all of these requirements.Mr. Bettner countered saying he talked with the engineering department at Northern Health and the man he talked with was unaware the project was near a dump. The Observer tried to reach the Northern Health Environmental Health officer who has worked on the project, but he is on holidays for two weeks as well. Mark Karjaluoto, Northern Health’s Director of Communications said he talked with staff and was told the intake system is still at the design stage. From what he understands, Northern Health is waiting for other documents, and Northern Health drinking water staff will have to approve any project before it is implemented.

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