Questions surrounding the Hedley Improvement District’s communication plan have surfaced since it became public that the community’s water had a spike in coliform levels.
Coliform are bacteria found in everything from animal waste, soil and vegetation.
Residents lashed out on social media stating they hadn’t received a call or written paper notice and didn’t hear about the do not consume order for more than 24 hours or more after it was issued.
T.J. Bratt one of the owners of Hedley’s only store the Hedley Country Market said a notice was not given to the store until mid-day Saturday.
A water sample was sent to the lab on Dec. 4. Testing takes several days to complete and the HID was informed late Friday afternoon that coliform levels had increased.
“A community notice was casually dropped off Saturday afternoon at the store. Knowing of the Community Club Bazaar (Saturday), HID should have contacted them and the store should have been first to know as we are in touch with 150 plus people daily. We found out through our own connections not through the HID Friday evening,” Bratt wrote.
A number of other people stated they didn’t receive a notice at all while others received multiple phone calls and written notice.
Lynn Wells, chair of the HID, said within a short time of finding out the test results on Friday she personally started making calls to vulnerable people in the community including the sick and elderly.
“Those people then made calls and a lot of people heard about it that way. There was a good cross-section of Hedley that received calls within an hour or two,” she said. “First thing in the morning Saturday we were down at the HID office and printing out notices and trustees along with the water employees were out going door-to-door.”
She also said she contacted one of the family members that works at the store and left a voicemail Friday explaining the situation and encouraging the store to bring in extra water so people could buy clean drinking water locally.
The voicemail was not checked until the next day, she said.
For those that say they didn’t receive notice she didn’t have an answer.
“We did our best to put a notice on everyone’s door. Maybe the wind blew it away, I cant say. We did make every effort to get to every household,” she said.
Water was brought to the Hedley Community Club Saturday by the area’s regional director Tim Roberts.
More water was brought in and given out and delivered to homes for those that needed it by the Country Store later in the day Saturday.
Wells said the HID has no plans in place to provide water when it is undrinkable at this time and noted emergency preparedness states everyone should have enough clean drinking water on-hand to last 72 hours.
Wells said the HID will debrief on how the situation was handled.
“Everything can always be improved,” she said. “I don’t know the last time Hedley’s water had a problem. There was a concern in the spring that perhaps the water pipe across the creek was punctured and we sent out boil water notices then. We do whatever Interior Health tells us to do.”
Wells would not comment on what might have caused the spike in coliform levels, but did say work was being done by contractors to repair a water supply pipe that had been damaged during freshet.
“I don’t want to lay blame at this point. It’s all speculation at this point. We don’t know all the facts yet. We might never know all the facts,” she said.
For at least five months the water supply has also had slightly elevated levels of arsenic in the water relating to an extreme freshet this spring.
Wells said the only way to reduce levels of arsenic would be for the HID to put in a treatment plant, which would cost a lot of money. She said Interior Health suggested the community let arsenic levels recede naturally. But, because higher than normal levels of arsenic are in the water residents cannot simply boil water to make it consumable as it raises arsenic levels further.
The water supply was super chlorinated by HID water officials Saturday and again Sunday and another water sample was taken to Kelowna Monday. The results are not expected until later in the week.
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