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First Nations Present Scientific Evidence on Impacts to Groundwater From Site C Dam

West Moberly, Prophet River, and Saulteau First Nations say BC Hydro has left gaps in groundwater data at dam site

/ -- FORT ST. JOHN, BRITISH COLUMBIA -- (Marketwired) -- 01/12/16 -- West Moberly First Nations, Prophet River First Nation, and Saulteau First Nations have provided new scientific evidence on the potential impact to groundwater from the proposed Site C dam. The First Nations retained an expert in hydrogeology, Dr. Gilles Wendling, to conduct a technical evaluation of groundwater information provided by BC Hydro.

"My research," Dr. Wendling stated, "uncovered significant data gaps in the characterization of groundwater around the dam site." His analysis found the following:

                  1.  There is not enough information on current groundwater 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 groundwater 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
                      groundwater 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 groundwater flows could cause those wastes to mix
                      with groundwater.
                  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

Dr. 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 groundwater 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.

Media contact:
Chief Roland Willson
(250) 788-1065

Technical contact:
Dr. Gilles Wendling
(250) 756-4538