The B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s (MOTI) Kicking Horse Canyon Project is currently underway, with crews working in the vicinity of Dart Creek.
Dart Creek is a crucial source of water for those living on the outskirts of Golden in Area A, the Lapp Road region, according to concerned resident Alex McLean.
McLean, who personally uses Dart Creek as a water source, is concerned about the impact construction will have regarding blocking access to Dart Creek and potentially polluting it. He first noticed a change in water quality almost a year ago, back on July 14, 2019.
“I showed up one day and it was running dirty, I’ve been hauling water from there for over a decade and I’ve never seen it like that,” said McLean.
“The fact that it happened at the same time that MOTI was there, I don’t think that was a coincidence. I had to go to South Hospital Creek instead, which is below a farm and definitely less than ideal.”
According to McLean, MOTI denies responsibility for the contamination.
McLean is particularly concerned with MOTI’s obligations under the Water Sustainability Act, section 46(1), which requires the ministry to not cause a significant adverse effect on the water quality at Dart Creek until authorized to do so.
“MOTI is currently determining who they will supply water to once they contaminate or restrict access to Dart Creek,” said McLean in a statement making its way around social media to inform those who may be affected by the construction at Dart Creek.
“All people who obtain water from Dart Creek for domestic purposes are encouraged to notify MOTI of this as soon as possible. Failure to do so may jeopardize their potential right to obtain water from MOTI once the project pollutes or restricts access to Dart Creek,” McLean stated.
In response, MOTI issued its own statement: “For the past several months, and in full compliance with the Water Sustainability Act, the Project team has been developing plans, with the participation of the Town of Golden, to establish an alternative public supply of potable water for the duration of construction for the holder of the water licence at Dart Creek and others who draw water for domestic use from this source.”
McLean is also concerned over the lack of communication from MOTI with other affected residents.
He said as a licensed water user, MOTI has been addressing him directly, but as far as he was aware, he was the only person ministry officials had spoken to.
He expressed frustration with the lack of outreach to the community, who may show up to collect water only to find their path blocked or the creek contaminated.
The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) is aware of the ongoing situation and has been in contact with McLean.
“The CSRD is aware that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is working on and committed to finding a solution for residents that utilize Dark Creek as a water source during the highway upgrade project,” read a statement from the CSRD.
“The CSRD has requested that the ministry keep the affected residents informed of their opportunity to conveniently access potable water at no cost while the Dark Creek water license is inaccessible.”
Project surveys and geotechnical drilling are currently being conducted and the main civil works are scheduled to begin this fall and take about four years to complete.
McLean believes this is the perfect opportunity to get creative and come up with a long- term solution that benefits all.
“Right now, I’ve put a proposal forward about potentially putting in a tap at the works yard in town,” said McLean.
“At the end of the day, you’ve still got people using untreated surface water, which carries risk of contamination.
“I don’t think it’s an ideal situation. I think we should work towards a long-term solution that’s going to serve everyone in the community.”
In response, the ministry has reached out to McLean and says it is working towards a solution, with more information to come in the weeks ahead.
“During construction of the final phase of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project, it will be necessary to restrict access to Dart Creek, a non-potable water source east of Golden,” reads a statement from MOTI.
“The Dart Creek water source is to be restored to its original condition following construction, currently expected in 2023-24.
“While recent baseline samples have shown that the water from Dart Creek does not meet drinking water standards, the alternative supply will be potable.
“The Project team also has been exploring opportunities for the potable alternative to be made permanent.
“Further information is expected to be available in the very near future.”
Dark Creek emerges from the ground as a series of springs about 100 to 200 metres above intake and historically has had good water quality, according to McLean.
He has been meeting with members of the CSRD, the Town of Golden and MOTI through open houses and other forums to negotiate a possible solution.