The situation in the Williams Lake River Valley will likely get worse before it gets better.
That’s the reality facing the city’s chief administrative officer, Milo MacDonald, and Gary Muraca, director of municipal services, who were headed back into the river valley early Monday morning, April 27, to inspect the state of Williams Lake’s infrastructure, where a sewer main broke Sunday and continues to spill the city’s partially treated effluent into the creek, and eventually the Fraser River.
The river valley is currently seeing a one-in-two-hundred-year flow rate in the creek, he said.
“Nothing can withstand that kind of sustained pressure,” MacDonald said. “It’s raging out of control.”
Officials, including municipal workers as well as provincial and federal experts, are monitoring the situation and trying to determine next steps to preserve Williams Lake’s infrastructure and limit the environmental impacts in the face of the record levels of water.
“Everyone’s been very understanding. This isn’t anyone’s fault,” he said, noting they’ve received a lot of support from the Provincial Emergency Management team out of Prince George.
“If we would have had a little good luck we would have been fine,” he said.
In fact on Sunday, workers had planned to repair the broken line, exposed by erosion, and asked Williams Lake residents to significantly reduce water usage while they did so. However, as equipment was mobilized into the area another section of road was swept away by the strong currents, forcing an excavator operator to evacuate and other workers to be removed by helicopter.
MacDonald said everyone is safe and city equipment is not damaged, but it speaks to the evolving situation they are dealing with, and it’s not over yet.
City officials are bracing themselves for at least a week more of high water volume before it lets up, depending on the how warm the temperature gets every day.
“It’s not clear at this point where we’re going to end up.”
In the meantime, MacDonald asked Williams Lake residents to help them by moderating their use of water as much as possible.