Tensions boil over during Hedley water meeting

Following a heated meeting over the water situation in Hedley the chair said she might resign

  • Dec. 21, 2018 1:08 p.m.

At least one member of the Hedley Improvement District board is contemplating resigning in the midst of what some residents are calling a public relations problem relating to a do not consume water order.

Following a tense meeting where a question and answer period was held, current chair Lynn Wells told the Review she was considering resigning the position she’s held for eight years.

“It will probably happen. This has been very difficult,” she said.

Higher than allowable coliform levels were detected in Hedley water on Dec. 7 prompting the do not consume order from Interior Health. Residents have been critical of the HID notification system as it took several days to get test results and some people were not notified until more than 24 hours after the do not consume water was issued.

Related: Water samples good, Hedley awaits drinking water A-OK

Wells noted that the board has been down one trustee since the fall and was lacking in some aspects including keeping the website up to date, using social media to communicate and other areas.

“This issue has illuminated some gaps for us,” she said.

Repeatedly during the meeting she called for volunteers to help the board and asked if there were experts in fields like public relations, communications that could help devise a plan to inform people faster.

Jennifer Douglass, a longtime resident of Hedley was dismayed when a letter she wrote and another letter written by a concerned citizen about the issue to the HID was not put into the correspondence of the meeting.

“You guys have a public relations problem. Your communication has been terrible,” she said. “This is part of public relations and being interactive with the community. I’m trying to talk to you and communicate with you and you don’t even put my letter in the minutes. You’ve said you need to work on the website, and you need to work on a Facebook page, but this is one of the examples right now related to public relations. There’s a problem with your public relations.”

Questions about how the problem happened and if a proactive approach by the HID would have reduced the amount of contaminated water consumed also came up.

Related: UPDATE: Hedley residents will be without water for at least one week

Although Wells said the investigation into what and how the water in Hedley was contaminated with higher than regulated coliform levels was still underway, it was stated during the meeting that True Consulting had hired an outside contractor to do work on the community’s intake pipe.

With the loss of pressure while the work was being done and debris possibly falling into the pipe contamination occurred.

“We are still investigating this so although there’s theories and speculations behind what might have caused the contamination we’re really not at the point of knowing anything for sure,” she said.

Gary Ross, a former longtime water employee at the HID questioned the response from current employees who were hired less than five months ago, wondering why the system wasn’t chlorinated at the first sight of a problem instead of waiting for test results, which took three days.

“Given the water system is very leaky 100,000 gallons per day for 200, 240 people so the system is very leaky. We’re using two to three times what it should be for consumption.You have an event prior to whatever happened in Chute Creek, which led to the depressurization of the system… at that point you should have been thinking about what you needed to do to chlorinate the system, but then you had contamination from your contractors… that would lead to there being 100 per cent chance of contamination,” he said, adding.

“So at that point what you should have done, what we have done in the past … what you should do is immediately chlorinate the system and issue a boil water notice.”

Travis Barck, the current water steward said the contractors in charge of the project did chlorinate parts of the system and had independent test results that passed.

The HID water employees did take water samples, but they took three days to come back.

During the meeting he said he’d been left “an albatross” to try to operate.

Following the meeting Barck said the system is in extreme disrepair as noted by Ross in the meeting by how much it leaks.

“That’s why I’m really pushing for them to look at putting together an asset management plan so we can be proactive instead of reactive. This system needs a lot of work,” he said.

A bi-election for the empty HID position is being held in late January.

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