B.C. community of Hedley under do-not-consume water advisory due to arsenic levels

A do-not-consume water order for Hedley, B.C., came into effect on Christmas Day and is expected to last another four weeks. Interior Health

Residents of a small B.C. community are facing an ongoing water issue that started in late December and could stretch into March.

Located in the Southern Interior, the village of Hedley is under a do-not-consume water advisory because of higher-than-safe arsenic levels.

The advisory came into effect on Christmas Day and, because of wrinkles caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, is expected to last another four weeks.

Read more: ‘They dropped the ball’: Some Hedley residents drank unsafe water unaware of ‘do not consume’ order

Hedley, with its population of around 200 people, is located on Highway 3, between Princeton and Osoyoos.

Wesley Mufford, chair of the Hedley Improvement District (HID), said the village has two wells, and that the pump in the main well broke.

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Mufford said the second well can’t be used because it tested for arsenic at 11 parts per billion, above the safe level of 10 parts per billion.

According to Health Canada, arsenic is tasteless and odourless, and that results suggest “consuming drinking water with very high levels of arsenic over a lifetime, can increase the risk of cancer in internal organs such as the bladder, liver and lungs.”

Click to play video: '101 years commemorating the ‘Hedley Boys’ at one of oldest cenotaphs in Canada' 101 years commemorating the ‘Hedley Boys’ at one of oldest cenotaphs in Canada
101 years commemorating the ‘Hedley Boys’ at one of oldest cenotaphs in Canada – Nov 11, 2020

Mufford says parts to repair the well have been ordered from Texas, and that they should arrive in two weeks – if they aren’t slowed by shipping and border issues.

Following that, replacement, testing and approval will take another two weeks.

Mufford said had the part not failed, the pump was going to be repaired regardless. However, he said the failure has had a cascading effect, with not only the health order being extended but a scheduled water pipe replacement now being shelved.

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Read more: Liberal MPs call on Ottawa to tackle ‘national public health crisis’ of lead in drinking water

The water pipe was going to be increased in size, but the HID has now “put that on hold to concentrate on the well house.”

Mufford said the village’s plans include figuring out where the arsenic is coming from and then treating the cause.

Interior Health has an interactive online map showing water quality advisories throughout the province.

For Hedley, the do-not-consume advisory says there are “chemical and physical water quality parameters in excess of acceptable concentrations.”

Click to play video: 'Hedley residents still without usable tap water' Hedley residents still without usable tap water
Hedley residents still without usable tap water – Dec 17, 2018

One Hedley resident, Dawn Worthing, said while she understands the struggle HID is facing, especially the economics that could be involved, the district could do a better job of informing area residents of what’s going on.

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“If somebody says ‘Hey, the road is really bad to Princeton today, don’t go out because of snow and ice,’ those kind of things come from us, the public,” said Worthing.

“But stuff that involves water, fire … stuff that the HID is responsible for, should be conveyed to us on a regular basis, or a need-to-know basis when something happens, and not be left in the dark.”

For more about arsenic levels in water, click here.

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