Ground Water Canada

News
First Nations present evidence on impacts to ground water from Site C dam


January 13, 2016
By Ground Water Canada

Fort St. John, B.C. – West Moberly First Nations, Prophet River First Nation, and Saulteau First Nations have provided new scientific evidence on the potential impact to ground water from the proposed Site C dam, the First Nations said in a news release.

The First Nations retained an expert in hydrogeology, Gilles Wendling, to conduct a technical evaluation of ground water information provided by BC Hydro.

“My research uncovered significant data gaps in the characterization of groundwater around the dam site,” Wendling said in his report. His analysis found the following:

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  1. There is not enough information on current ground water flows in the area and how those flows will change when the dam is built, and the subsurface conditions are very complex. Based on the lack of definition of the ground water regime near the dam, the First Nations are questioning whether the safety of the dam has been adequately addressed.
  2. There are significant concerns about the interaction between increased ground water pressures from the dam and the extensive oil and gas activity in the region, including the re-injection of liquid wastes into the ground. Changes to ground water flows could cause those wastes to mix with ground water.
  3. The increased frequency and severity of earthquakes in the region due to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” could pose a risk to dam safety that has not been accounted for by BC Hydro, and could further affect the integrity of oil and gas wells, including the liquid waste disposal wells.

Wendling’s report was prepared for the consultation process between the First Nations and the provincial government about the main water licence for the Site C dam and reservoir. A written hearing process on the proposed licence recently concluded, and the First Nations met last week with government officials to present the new research and other concerns.

“We view this new information about ground water impacts as highly significant,” said Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nations, “and it seems clear that BC Hydro should have done this research at a much earlier stage. We have asked the provincial government to go back to BC Hydro for more information on groundwater conditions before making their decision on the water licence.”

The water licence is one of many authorizations still required for the Site C dam. BC Hydro has already begun site preparation activities, including clearing timber and constructing temporary roads and bridges in the area of the proposed dam. Ongoing legal challenges of the Site C project by the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations are expected to continue for at least the next several months.