LETTER TO THE EDITOR: is Dawson Creek's water safe?

Is the 100,000+ cubic meters of waste dumped on Bear Mountain safe?

My husband, Ralph Hawryluk and I are the family trying to live 600ft from this 100,000+ cubic metre pile.

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In June of 2018, construction began on the residential lot east of our property. We live below the very start of the Dawson Creek watershed, all the water off the Northwest end of Bear Mountain runs through our property. When we enquired to the workers on this project we got nowhere, they wouldn't tell us what the 6 weeks of construction was actually for. When we informed this employee that whatever they do above us runs directly downhill and into our water sources, we were basically laughed at and told they know what they are doing.

We have a dugout at the south end of our property that is used for organic gardens, livestock etc. After the rain there was up to 4" of silt runoff onto our property from this project. It destroyed the use of our water source causing us to have to water gardens and livestock from the house water source. On the north side of our yard, a second water source was rendered useless for the same reason. We have one water source that didn't get destroyed, the one to our house as we shut off the intake to it. We did add reverse osmosis to our water system just to be safe. But should we have to do this? I think not.

As of right now we are planning on moving our livestock, 2 horses, 2 ponies, 2 miniature ponies and 2 goats before the runoff starts as the water source in their pasture also gets the runoff and it is far to risky to allow them to drink the water at this point.

The past 8 months have been terrifying for both of us. Ralph made his home here in 1985 and myself in 1994. We were set up for our retirement, and now it's all up in the air. Will we even be able to continue living here?

 

I have had communications with Shawn Trottier, the Environmental Manager for Louisiana Pacific about what's going on. He does his best to assure me that..."the soil we are bringing to the 235 Rd. would meet the same limits as the soil in your back yard or in the forest at the end of the road." Hard to believe when we've all got the test results for both piles on the LP site.

We have had no contact at any point with the owner or anyone from Celtic Construction, except through Mr. Trottier who informed me that Celtic Contracting would build us a new dugout. "Carl is willing to help me make amends, let me know if you change your mind about the dugout," he said in an email. The problem with that is, there are three dugouts around our yard that received the runoff. Our only recourse is to build a huge dugout a 1/4 of a mile north of our yard where no runoff comes from the dump site, and piping it to our yard. It will have to be piped to our farmyard, our garden area and for refilling our house water supply on dry years. The water source we used for this in previous years is full of muddy runoff and will be again this year. If this site is anywhere near as contaminated as we've been told we are in desperate need of a new water source as we'll be lucky to make it through summer with the one remaining water source. I won't even go into the creeks running through our property that will have to be fenced off, should this site be proven contaminated.

When I asked Mr. Trottier why we weren't contacted about this project if it was just clean dirt and they were doing nothing wrong, his response in August was that he thought Celtic Construction had talked to all the residents and explained the project. He didn't, not one family out of five was contacted, nor could they get an answer to what was being hauled in when enquiring about it.

When I complained in an email recently, I was told "When this project started I took the easy way out and convinced myself that this was Celtic's job site, and they needed to own communicating to the neighbors. Looking back, Celtic doesn't have the experience to do that right, and we all agree that things would have been better - not perfect - but better if we had been out talking to you before the work began. I'm sorry that didn't happen."

Meanwhile we and our neighbors are left to wonder. Our newest neighbor has just started a beautiful flower farm, Lorne Ireland is retired and living on our road. These two neighbors are faced with a local company, Crank Industries Ltd, having bought the quarter section north of us, south of the flower farm, and west of Lorne Irelands property. They have an application in to take a portion of this hay field out of the ALR to create a "storage site to stockpile, manage, and sell clean spoil fom Louisiana Pacific Oriented Strand Board (OSB) mill in Dawson Creek, BC. We don't need this in our community. Our third neighbor has been happily here for 10 years, his property is listed for sale.

Our road is used by everyone on it for recreation, dog walking, jogging, walking, riding horses and so on. Last summer it was hard to drive in and out, walking on it was impossible.

 

Everyone out here, along with a group of Dawson Creek residents would like answers. I don't feel that we personally should have to pay the bill for having water testing done independent of Louisiana Pacific. Mr. Trottier has agreed to pay for water testing on our property, but after all that has went down do we trust LP? Does the City of Dawson Creek plan on doing their own testing? Or are they relying on testing done by LP?

When I contacted Chelsea Mottishaw (Dawson Creek Watershed Coordinator) about seeing the test results from our driveway culvert I was told "The test results from the November 19th sampling event were paid for by Louisiana Pacific, thus their permissions are required to circulate."

Is this right? Shouldn't Dawson Creek want to sample the runoff on their own?

Everyone would love nothing more than for the dirt to be clean, especially my husband and I. It's hard to believe them though, all summer we could smell this "soil" it stinks like nothing I have smelled before. It's nauseating and burns your sinuses.

I was advised online to put it in a jar and put clean water on it. We did, the smell makes people that are brave enough to smell it heave and gag. It's bad.

I'll include a few quotes we received in emails from various people, I won't include any names but it doesn't make a person sleep well after reading them.

"LP is full of carcinogenic chemicals and products."

"Calling one pile of dirt uncontaminated is a joke, its two piles of contaminated dirt, one is just worse than the other."

"Impossible to say that the soil is free of toxins."

"They were supposed to have it hauled away and treated but they're apparently just dumping it on some guys property that works up there."

In the end, I guess time will tell. All we can do is move our livestock to a safe area until we find out the truth. We and City of Dawson Creek, as well as at least 3 neighbors below us all need the truth before it's too late. After 8 months of dealing with 50 to 100 trucks jake braking up and down the road mountain, smelling the "soil" as it goes by, the wrecking and rebuilding of our road all summer, the dust, the tailgate slamming, the Cat roaring up and down "the pile" 6 and 7 days a week, we deserve to know if we are safe.

We need help.

 

Rose M. Hawryluk

rmhawryluk@outlook.com

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