Dirt and debris is finding its way into a fish-bearing back channel of the Peace River near the Site C dam construction site, but BC Hydro says its contractors aren't the cause.
In a letter to the Peace River Regional District (PRRD), Jessica Brunet claims to have seen dump trucks from a Site C road realignment project hauling dirt and waste rock to a lot in the Old Fort Road neighbourhood.
Brunet writes the dirt "is being dumped over an embankment" on a lot where it is "sliding into a back channel of the Peace River where fish spawn." "The movement of dirt is beginning to disrupt the flow of the back channel," Brunet writes. "The movement is causing previously dumped contaminated dirt to be pushed into the river," noting the dirt contains concrete, glass and rebar.
According to the letter, Brunet saw the trucks dumping at the lot July 23-24. She could not be reached for comment Aug. 10.
Site C spokesperson David Conway says BC Hydro has investigated the complaint, but found the dirt is not coming from the lot where its roadbuilding contractor has been granted permission to dispose of waste dirt.
"The contractor responsible for the road improvement work along Old Fort Road, acting within the rights of the contract, removed surplus material to a third party disposal site located in the Old Fort subdivision," Conway wrote in an email, noting the owner requested some dirt to use to level the property.
"The material was stockpiled approximately 50 metres from the Peace River side channel and the contractor has indicated that they did not provide any further support to the property owner in terms of spreading or moving the material once it was stockpiled."
Crews on the river said they observed dirt sliding into the channel—but from two other Old Fort Road properties.
"These properties were not disposal sites for the contractor and the side cast (slide) is not related to the Site C project," Conway said.
In an email, B.C.'s Environmental Assessment Office confirmed investigators were looking into the slide.
Our Natural Resource Officer in the area confirmed they received a complaint from a local resident alleging that Site C construction dump trucks are dumping soil down a bank and into the Peace River," a spokesperson wrote in an email. However, the spokesperson said it was too soon to say whether the dirt came from Site C construction.
"Conservation officers have also been notified as they are responsible for investigating possible damage to freshwater fish habitat."
Old Fort Road is the nearest neighbourhood to the Site C work site—a short distance from one of two project entrances on the Peace River's north bank.
Construction has been underway on the $8.8 billion hydro project for just over a year. In June 2015, residents said BC Hydro had not adequately addressed their concerns about truck traffic, dust, and the potential for a dam breach.
"During the construction phase there will be a massive workers camp parked just around the corner from our neighbourhood," Old Fort resident Jared Giesbrecht said in a news release that month. "The traffic, dust, smoke and noise alone will make life in the Old Fort extremely unpleasant. We can't get BC Hydro to care about the harm to us, never mind take any tangible steps to mitigate or compensate for our loss."