Mayor's Report - April 2002


In recent weeks residents will have seen various advisory notices from the Village of Belcarra, BC Hydro, Simon Fraser Health Region, and the BC Ministry of Water, Land & Air Protection regarding BC Hydro applying wood preservatives to utility poles within 30 metres of wells in Belcarra contrary to the requirements of their Pesticide Use Permit. This is an unfortunate faux pas on the part of BC Hydro for which the company has had to undertake a significant effort to remediate and prevent from happening in the future.

Mayor Ralph Drew

The story actually begins over two years ago when BC Hydro made application to the Province for a Pesticide Use Permit to undertake a utility pole treatment program within the Lower Mainland. The application was referred to Simon Fraser Health for comment, and SFH advised the Village of Belcarra of the application. The application was discussed by Council at its meeting on February 21st, 2000, which resulted in a resolution requiring:
“…that prior to any initiative to apply preservatives, BC Hydro in consultation with Simon Fraser Health provide a presentation to Council to satisfy the community’s concerns regarding the potential contamination to local ground water supplies or exposure to the preservatives.”
In addition, SFH stipulated that BC Hydro had to prepare a base-map of all domestic water supplies and wells in Belcarra prior to undertaking such a treatment program. The BC Hydro manager responsible for the treatment program began the process of mapping wells in the area, and all felt that “due diligence” had been done. But as they say: “Murphy was an optimist!”

Forward to January 2002 when some residents notice contractors working around utility poles and begin to ask questions. Numerous discussions and telephone calls with different agencies and individuals culminated in a delegation of BC Hydro personnel appearing before Council on March 25th, 2002, to speak about the utility pole treatment program. After two hours of discussion and many questions, the following resolution was adopted:

WHEREAS Council understands that contractors for BC Hydro have applied preservatives to utility power poles within the Village of Belcarra in a manner not in accordance with the permits for such treatment issued by the BC Ministry of Environment;

AND WHEREAS Belcarra residents are a unique community being dependent upon wells and ground water for their domestic water supply;

AND WHEREAS the violations of the permit apparently involve use of the utility pole treatments in proximity to domestic water supplies or wells;


1. Notify all residents of the Village that utility pole treatments may have occurred near their domestic water supply contrary to the applicable permits.

2. Formally request a report from BC Hydro, which the Village will assist through identification of sensitive sites, that identifies all treatments of utility poles that took place within the Village of Belcarra and, identifies each case where the applicable permit of the Ministry of Environment was not respected, and explains how this occurred and what steps will be taken to prevent this in future. This report to be presented at a future public meeting in Belcarra.

3. Work with BC Hydro to establish a protocol to ensure, in future, that utility pole treatments are undertaken in accordance with applicable permits and with the knowledge of residents.

4. Request that, in each case where the Ministry of Environment permit has been violated, BC Hydro arrange for water testing on at least one occasion and thereafter in accordance with recommendations of the Ministry of Environment, and Ministry of Health or other competent health authority, for such a period of time and at such a frequency as that authority considers prudent, given test results.

5. Request representatives of the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Health appear at a public meeting in Belcarra to explain the permit criteria, their scientific basis, and the steps the Ministry of Environment will take in light of the permit violations.

6. Upon completion of these steps, request a presentation of the report by the BC Hydro Vice-President for Environmental Affairs, or equivalent position, at a public meeting in Belcarra.

7. Copy this resolution to Ministry of Environment, Simon Fraser Health Region, BC Hydro Chair and Vice-President for Environmental Affairs.”

The BC Hydro delegation again appeared before Council on April 8th, 2002, to provide a progress report on the remediation efforts. The delegation presented a letter that included a 15-point action plan noting that the first 10 items had been completed. Test results were presented by BC Hydro’s Environmental Coordinator for water samples taken from 12 wells throughout the community, and those initial results did not identify issues of concern. However, additional analytical work was necessary before making a final determination. The delegation also advised Council that BC Hydro had retained the services of two independent third parties to provide expert technical advice on water sampling and analysis, pesticide toxicity, soil and ground water migration; namely, Dr. Dennis Konasewich (Hemmera Envirochem) and Dr. John Ruddick (UBC Department of Wood Science).

The remaining five action items currently being addressed by BC Hydro are as follows:

  • Prepare a root-cause analysis report and present to Council for the Village of Belcarra;
  • Revise Test and Treat Procedures to ensure Pesticide Free Zones are not violated in the future;
  • Establish a working protocol with the Village of Belcarra for future test and treat cycles;
  • Survey and map all well locations in the Village of Belcarra;
  • Host a public meeting in the Village of Belcarra to present the forgoing reports and protocols, and address all local concerns.
  • The base-mapping of all domestic wells within the municipality is a very important aspect of protecting the community water supply in the future. Council encourages all residents to assist and cooperate when asked to identify the location of their well. If a property owner has not yet provided the location of their well for the mapping project, please contact the Village Office at (604) 937-4100.

    On a positive note, several useful outcomes will have resulted from these events:

  • A base-map of all domestic water supplies and wells in Belcarra;
  • A water quality profile for Belcarra with respect to trace elements and petroleum hydrocarbons;
  • Improved awareness within the community regarding the importance of protecting water supplies;
  • Protocols within BC Hydro to prevent such incidents in the future.
  • Council will advise residents by a mail-drop notice of the BC Hydro public information meeting, to be held in June, at which questions can be asked regarding any aspect of the foregoing.


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    Village of Belcarra
    4084 Bedwell Bay Road
    Belcarra, BCCANADA
    V3H 4P8

    Tel: (604) 937-4100
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