A heated public meeting was held in the tiny Similkameen town of Hedley on Wednesday afternoon over the community’s water woes.
On Monday, a “do not consume” water order issued by the Interior Health Authority (IHA) was downgraded to a water quality advisory, which means it is now safe for most people to consume.
Significant levels of coliform bacteria and elevated levels of arsenic were discovered in the town’s water supply on Dec. 7. That meant upwards of 200 residents were not able to use tap water for cooking or drinking for one week, even if boiled first.
Residents sprayed the Hedley Improvement District (HID) with criticism at the public meeting. Some claimed they were not notified of the advisory right away.
“You’re leaders in our town and we expect you to step up and provide maybe some guidance,” said one resident.
“Not telling the post office, not telling the Country Store and restaurants and it’s horse crap and you know it,” said Hedley Country Market owner Douglas Bratt.
“Timing and content of communication with residents has been poor, concern for my health heightened,” said Ken Hoyle,” manager of the Hedley Fire Department.
“Some gaps did become obvious. We’re not present on Facebook; we need to have a Facebook page,” responded Lynn Wells, HID chairperson.
Some attendees accused the elected trustees of not providing enough clean water, with many left to fend for themselves.
“That is something that should be told to the people. Where can you go and get water?” said a resident.
Other’s questioned the HID’s leadership, when the man responsible for overseeing Hedley’s water system made this stunning revelation.
“I never stopped drinking the water. I don’t think it’s a big deal whatsoever. I think everybody has just gone nuts,” said trustee Dave Peers.
“It’s very disconcerting for me to have you sit there and say the issues that we are facing regarding our water issues are ridiculous,” responded a resident.
At one point Wells even threatened to resign in face of the backlash before a colleague talked her off the edge.
The HID said water tolls paid by residents could go up to fund infrastructure upgrades to ensure a water emergency does not happen again.
The cause of the contamination is still under investigation.