Residents who draw drinking water from Kitsuksis Creek are being encouraged to use an alternate source after a waterway enhancement project at McLean Mill National Historic Site went sideways on Wednesday.
Volunteers with the Alberni Valley Enhancement Association were decommissioning an aging sluice that releases water from the mill’s log pond into a channel that connects to Kitsuksis Creek downstream.
According to a press release from the city of Port Alberni, the sluice was removed in sections, allowing for a controlled drawdown of the pond. As the water level drew down, the pond took on a rust-brown colour. The project lead stopped the process, and the project engineer advised that direct discharge stop.
City of Port Alberni utilities superintendent Brian Mousley said samples have been taken of the pond water and sent to a lab for testing. As a precaution, the area has been cordoned off and residents in the area who live along Kitsuksis Creek were notified of the incident.
“We knocked on doors to see if anyone was drawing off the creek as a water supply,” Mousley explained. He said while some people are using water from Kitsuksis Creek for irrigation, most residents are either hooked into the Cherry Creek or Beaver Creek water systems for drinking water. McLean Mill draws from the Cherry Creek water system, he added.
Removal of the sluice or gate was the last piece of work to be done in the re-routing of the creek at the south end of McLean Mill that started in late 2015 and early 2016, he said.
Any further discharge from the pond will be done using pumps, diverting water away from the channel and Kitsuksis Creek. Water and soil samples are being taken to determine if the water discharged could have any adverse impacts on water quality in the area.
“Anything that was in the existing pond is not getting into the creek—it is already isolated,” Mousley said.
Anyone who has to use an alternate source of drinking water who incurs costs for purchasing potable water can contact the city for reimbursement. Please keep your receipts and submit them either in person at city hall or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Water and soil samples from the area have been sent to a certified lab for analysis, but the first results won’t be returned until Saturday, Mousley said. Information regarding these samples from the area will be shared with affected residents “in a timely manner.”