Below is a letter provided to water users of Hemlock Utility Services Ltd regarding the water challenges which began on December 22, 2022.
On Dec. 22, 2022 Hemlock Utilities issued a water restriction at 6:01 p.m. The restriction was precipitated by a lack of water coming into the water treatment plant from the lagoon that the water utility draws its water from. The balancing tank was brought online to assist in servicing water requirements. The balancing tank water was treated and ready to be activated but due to a delay in approvals from Fraser Health in December it was not yet considered an approved water source, so there was no option but to issue a boil water advisory.
John Gislason snowshoed to the lagoon in the morning of December 23, 2022 and found there was a lack of water in the lagoon. The utilities team then consulted with Sasquatch Mountain Resort and the Ski Patrol was utilized (due to avalanche risk) to hike up the mountain to Cohen Lake, which provides water to the lagoon, to investigate whether there were any blockages or obstructions.
Chris Dyck was part of the team that arrived at Cohen Lake in the early afternoon of December 23, 2023. He observed no blockages to the creek bed. It was noted that the lake level was not high enough to spill over into the creek bed. After further inspection and consultation, the utilities team made the decision to investigate the ice thickness, to explore whether the option of drilling through the ice and pumping water from below the ice would be viable. The team returned to retrieve the necessary equipment.
Chris Dyck made his second trip to the lake in the afternoon. The ice was so thick the drill could not penetrate its length. There was not enough daylight for a third trip to the lake that day, so a decision was made to cease water service at 6 p.m. on December 23, 2022. Chris Dyck returned in the morning of December 24, 2022. After drilling through an extraordinary 93cm of ice, only a shallow reservoir of 10cm of water was measured underneath, not enough water to resupply the lagoon or install a pump.
Heavy rains began that morning and within a few hours the lagoon and lake were resupplied with water. The water was extremely turbid and required a large amount of filtering. Special thanks to the utility team for working 24/7 for the next week to clean filters every 15 minutes to deal with the unusually high turbidity. It is noted that on “normal” days the water treatment plant filters water that comes into the plant averaging 2 NTU (Nephelometric Turbidity Unit) and that week the water coming into the plant was over 5 NTU. After treatment the water is .1 NTU.
On December 24 at 12:48 P.M. water service was restored to the community. Water restrictions continued as the team worked around the clock to restore water supply into the system and the new storage capacity. All restrictions and boil water advisories were lifted on Dec. 30, 2022.
Wednesday, January 18th, 2023 Fraser Health approved the balancing tank, which has now added 88,000 Gallons of treated water capacity to the system.
We thank you for your patience and understanding during this water shortage. With the changing global warming and extreme weather events bringing long stretches of dry weather, the utility company may no longer be able to rely on Cohen Lake to provide a regular water supply. This incident has reinforced a larger concern for the water utility company that a second water supply may be required moving forward, to stabilize the availability of the water supply and to address the significant annual increase of water usage.
Hemlock Utility is working with engineers, planners and contractors to study the water system requirements and best practices for the community moving forward. Upon completion of the analysis, results will be presented to the community for review and consultation. Once we have an approved plan that the community supports, application processes with the various levels of government will be initiated to implement a long-term solution.