British Columbia

Northeastern B.C. district issues 'do not consume' order after water treatment plant failure

On Tuesday, the District of Hudson's Hope and the Northern Health Authority issued a "do not consume" order for potable water, almost three weeks after a local water treatment plant stopped working.

'Do not consume' order could last 3 weeks; free potable water being provided at Hudson's Hope Community Hall

The District of Hudson's Hope, B.C., issued a 'do not consume' order on Tuesday after a water treatment plant failure. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Almost three weeks after municipal authorities of a small northeastern B.C. community announced that a local water treatment plant had stopped working, hundreds of residents have been asked not to drink tap water or use it in cooking.

On Tuesday, the District of Hudson's Hope — about 86 kilometres west of Fort St. John, home to more than 800 people — and the Northern Health Authority issued a "do not consume" order for potable water that the district processes and distributes.

"The issuing of the 'do not consume' order is a precautionary measure due [to] the extended time required to repair the water treatment plant," wrote the district. 

The district says the order could last three weeks, and potable water is being provided for free at the Hudson's Hope Community Hall on Kyllo Street on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The order follows a boil water advisory issued on July 21 after the district discovered a failure in the filtration system of its water treatment plant, located on Dudley Drive.

Residents with animals or livestock are asked to use water at the Beryl Prairie Water Stand, which isn't affected by the order.

Water problem due to B.C. Hydro project: resident

Nicole Gilliss, a Hudson's Hope resident for 14 years and former district councillor, says many of her neighbours have been frustrated with water issues for more than a year now, due to a B.C. Hydro construction project along the Peace River nearby.

Since 2020, the electric utility has been building a 2.6-kilometre berm — a barrier made of compacted soil, gravel and rocks — which it says will protect the Hudson's Hope shoreline from potential sediment flow from the Site C hydroelectric power dam that's still under construction.

Because the berm construction would make water from the Peace River unsuitable for drinking, B.C. Hydro agreed in 2017 to fund more than $4 million for a new water treatment plant and an aquifer — an underground body of rock that can hold water — in Hudson's Hope.

But that hasn't been able to produce quality water, says Gilliss, adding that iron and sulfur in the groundwater have clogged up the plant's filtration system.

"It's creating quite a smell — and [it's] just a problem," she said on CBC's Daybreak North.

Nedra Forrester, who lives on Dudley Drive, says the water treatment plant smells like "a sewage outlet."

"It certainly does smell bad — you can start out with a nice meal on the deck and all of a sudden ... It's like, 'Oh! What is that smell?'"

In an emailed statement to CBC News, B.C. Hydro says it is well aware of the challenges local residents are facing, but asked questions to be directed to the District of Hudson's Hope instead.

Mayor Dave Heiberg says district staff are working hard to fix the water treatment plant and to provide potable water to local residents.

A resident reacts to the latest development with the community water treatment plant

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Winston Szeto

Digital journalist

Winston Szeto is a journalist with CBC News based in Kelowna, B.C. in the unceded territories of the Syilx. He writes stories about new immigrants and LGBTQ communities. He has contributed to CBC investigative journalism programs Marketplace and The Fifth Estate. Winston speaks Cantonese and Mandarin fluently and has a working knowledge of German and Japanese. He came to Canada in 2018 from Hong Kong, and is proud to be Canadian. Send him tips at winston.szeto@cbc.ca.

With files from Jason Peters and Daybreak North

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