Hullcar aquifer information
The Clcahl/Hullcar Aquifer is the primary source of drinking water for residents of the Clcahl/Hullcar Valley. The Steele Springs Waterworks District (SSWD), which serves approximately 250 residents, and approximately 22 private water wells draw water from the aquifer.
All residents of the Township of Spallumcheen who live within the Clcahl/Hullcar Aquifer area were on an advisory by the Interior Health Authority (IHA) between March 2014 and June 2018. Nitrate levels at the SSWD drinking water overflow consistently exceeded the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines’ maximum allowable nitrate concentration (10 mg/L), triggering the advisory. The SSWD installed a new well, pump house and chlorination system and the Water Quality Advisory was lifted in March 2019. However, shallow monitoring wells continue to show elevated levels of nitrate when sampled.
The Ministry of Land Water and Resource Stewardship is working collaboratively with Splatsin, the Interior Health Authority, and the ministries of Agriculture and Food, Health, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Forests, and Environment and Climate Change Strategy on water quality issues within the aquifer.
Splatsin links this collaborative process to one of the key Secwépemc values, ‘Knucwentwecw’, meaning ‘helping each other’. It is with this value that their ancestors welcomed and helped the settlers who came to Canada. This value guides our collective work towards a place where clean drinking water will be available to all.
There are two main types of aquifers in B.C.: confined and unconfined. Confined aquifers are overlain by a confining layer, typically composed of clay, silt and/or till, that acts as a protective “shield” from contamination originating at the land surface. Unconfined aquifers have no confining layer and are often composed of sand. In general, unconfined aquifers are more vulnerable to impacts from human activities than confined or partially confined aquifers. The Clcahl/Hullcar Aquifer is unconfined and approximately 21.8 km2 in size. For more information, follow this link on Understanding Aquifers
B.C. has adopted the drinking water standards set by the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Drinking Water and published by Health Canada. These standards are used by jurisdictions across Canada to establish drinking water quality requirements and are known as the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality. These guidelines are the minimum that water systems should strive for and are designed to protect the health of the most vulnerable members of society, such as children and the elderly.
Nitrates are chemical compounds essential for all living things. They form naturally in the environment when nitrogen combines with oxygen. However, some human activities cause excess levels of nitrate in the environment, which can be dangerous to human health. Common sources of nitrates include:
- agricultural activities,
- wastewater treatment,
- septic systems,
- industrial processes, and
- motor vehicles
The health impacts of nitrate exposure depend on:
- the amount of nitrate a person is exposed to,
- how long the person was exposed to the nitrates,
- the person’s age, and
- the person’s pre-existing health conditions
Infants younger than six months old are at the highest risk from nitrates in drinking water as they cannot digest them. This may result in methemglobinemia, or blue-baby syndrome, which affects the amount of oxygen being carried in the blood, resulting in a bluish skin colour.
Long-term exposure to nitrates above the Canada Water Quality Guidelines may also impact thyroid gland function and may be associated with certain types of cancer. However, there is not enough evidence to classify nitrate as a carcinogen. More information can be found in Health Canada’s technical document on nitrates
Key inter-ministry actions and timeline
Drinking Water Advisory 2014
Between January 2014 and February 2016, sampling of the Steele Springs drinking water source showed nitrate levels increasing from 8.8 mg/L to 13.3 mg/L. The Canadian Drinking Water standard for nitrate is 10 mg/L.
On July 14, 2014, the Interior Health Authority issued a Water Quality Advisory to all residents of the Township of Spallumcheen, including Splatsin community members, who reside within the designated area of the Clcahl/Hullcar Aquifer. The advisory stated:
“Pregnant women, babies under 6 months of age, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems, or chronic heart, lung and blood conditions should take precautions and use an alternative source of water (ex. bottled water) at this time. For bottle fed infants, use an alternate source of water to mix infant formula for infants less than 6 months of age.”
2017 Provincial Review and POLIS Recommendation Report
In 2017 the Province announced an independent review of the Clcahl/Hullcar Aquifer to:
- ensure that agricultural practices were aligned with the provision and protection of clean, safe drinking water for all British Columbians and
- guide the development of new approaches and future decisions around agricultural waste management in the Clcahl/Hullcar Valley.
The review by the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance was focussed on the Clcahl/Hullcar Aquifer, but also benefited other areas of B.C. where agricultural waste management activities may threaten drinking water.
Provincial response plan
In response to the POLIS Recommendations Report, the Provincial Government completed the Hullcar (Clcahl*) Aquifer Response Plan (PDF) and initiated an Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) to address its recommendations.
Those recommendations requiring immediate and short-term action were addressed by the IAWG, and recommendations requiring longer-term actions are now underway. These include:
- providing regular environmental reporting of the monitoring program (ongoing)
- reviewing (ongoing)
- the public health risks associated with manure leaching to groundwater
- the use of water quality guidelines and regulatory responses applied by the respective agencies
- the adequacy of timeframe for responses, and
- investigating the use of anaerobic digesters utilizing manure to produce renewable natural gas (complete)
- establishing an Advisory Board, including First Nations, rights holders, stakeholders, and key government representatives, to formally provide advice on: (pending)
- appropriate legislative planning tool(s) under the Water Sustainability Act
- potential water objectives for the Clcahl/Hullcar Aquifer
- best practices for irrigation and other water use
- soil and water nitrate targets, and
- the best environmental monitoring program to support the planning tool(s).
The dropdown menus below provide further information about key events that occurred prior to 2017.
- August 27, 2014 - Ministry of Environment approved nutrient application for 12,000 gallons per acre to Jansen farmland (PDF, 31.07KB)
- July 14, 2014 - Interior Health Authority Issued a Water Quality Advisory for users of Hullcar aquifer (PDF, 237.70KB)
- April 16, 2014 - Ministry of Environment approved nutrient application for 15,000 gallons per acre to Jansen farmland (PDF, 30.97KB)
- March 6, 2014 - Ministry of Environment issued a S.112 Inspection Order to H.S. Jansen Dairy (PDF, 2.30MB)
- March 6, 2014 - Ministry of Environment issued an Information Order (107156) to Regehr Feedlot
- February 13, 2014 - ENV staff requests assistance from several AGRI staff regarding soil trend analysis provided by Okanagan Fertilizer. As well, requested advice and recommendation regarding types of crops planted.
- February 11-13, 2014 - ENV staff corresponds with IHA staff regarding the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality for Nitrates and the health impact for high nitrate levels.
- February 3, 2014 - ENV staff received water sample results from SSWD overflow and provided them to IHA staff, Dr. Upper, co-chair SSWD and Conservation Officer Service.
- February 2, 2014 - ENV staff initiates pre-investigative referral to Conservation Officer Service for H.S. Jansen Dairy.
- January 21, 2014 - ENV staff, responding to a complaint of high nitrates in Steele Springs drinking water overflow, had inspected the area including H.S. Jansen dairy farm.
- December 11, 2015 - Response closed to Freedom of Information request by University of Victoria, Environmental Law Center
- August 31, 2015 - Ministry of Environment approved nutrient application for 6,000 gal/acre to Jansen farmland (PDF, 149.41KB)
- July 15, 2015 - Ministry of Environment approved nutrient application for 6,000 gal/acre to Jansen farmland (PDF, 41.53KB)
- June 12, 2015 - Ministry of Environment denied nutrient application for 8,000 gal/acre to Jansen farmland (PDF, 82.87KB)
- May 16, 2016 - Inter-Agency Working Group met with Brian Upper, Steele Springs Water District and Doug Geller, Senior Hydrogeologist/President, Western Water and Associates Ltd. (WWAL) to review WWAL data and technical information that supported their open letter.
- May 13, 2016 - ENV lead discussions in separate meetings with agricultural operators, Steele Springs Water District, Township of Spallumcheen and Save Hullcar Aquifer Team introducing the concept of developing an area based management plan for Hullcar Valley.
- May 12, 2016 - Pollution Abatement Orders were issued to seven agricultural operators above the Hullcar Aquifer.
- April 14, 2016 - Inter-ministry Hullcar Aquifer Working Group meeting with Hullcar Community (PDF, 75KB)
- March 21, 2016 - Inter-ministry Hullcar Aquifer Working Group meeting with agriculture industry located above Hullcar aquifer (PDF, 283.7KB)
- March 21, 2016 - Inter-ministry Hullcar Aquifer Working Group meeting with representatives from Splatsin First Nation, Township of Spallumcheen Steele Springs Water District (SSWD) and Save Hullcar Aquifer Team (PDF, 270.8KB)
- March 11, 2016 - Inter-ministry Hullcar Aquifer Working Group Action Plan (PDF)
- February 16, 2016 - Ministry of Environment becomes the lead agency in the integrated Hullcar Aquifer water quality response
- February 4, 2016 - Ministry of Agriculture reactivates inter-ministry technical working group with membership from Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources and Interior Health Authority
- August 03, 2017 Letter from Interior Health Authority regarding Private Well Testing in Hullcar Private Well Sampling Opportunity (PDF, 76.3KB)
- August 2, 2017, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman announced a new review of the Hullcar Aquifer, with the end goal of ensuring agricultural practices are consistent with the provision and protection of clean, safe drinking water. The Ministry sought input from the public until August 31, 2017.
- March 8, 2017 Letter from ENV to IHA Summarizing Environmental Study Findings (PDF, 151KB)
These documents are sorted by contributing ministry. All documents below are PDFs unless otherwise stated:
Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (ENV)
- Key Documents, Rationale and Information Supporting Government Actions in Response to the Hullcar Issue (PDF, 611.3KB) - Sept 25 2017
- Memorandum on Hullcar Situation Summary (PDF, 545KB) - Sept 25 2017
- Memo on Stakeholder Comments and Data Summary (PDF, 141.4KB) - Sept 25 2017
- Hullcar Chronology (PDF, 595.8KB) - Sept 21 2017
- Hullcar Roles and Responsibilities (PDF, 692KB) - Sept 20 2017
- Memo on Hullcar Aquifer from E. Dennis Einarson (PDF, 30.9KB) - Sept 11 2017
- EMA Orders Handbook (PDF, 3.1MB) - Mar 31 2017
- AWCR Review - Synopsis Memo (PDF, 246.3KB) - Sept 15 2017
- Draft AWCR Proposed Final Policy (PDF, 1.5MB) - 2016
- Summary of Comments from the 2nd AWCR Intention Paper (PDF, 520.6KB) - Sept 2015
- AWCR Review 2nd Policy Intentions Paper (PDF, 253.07KB) - July 2015
- Summary of Comments from the 1st AWCR Intention Paper (PDF, 745.1KB) - Nov 2012
- AWCR Review 1st Policy Intentions Paper (PDF, 857.11KB) - Jan 2012
- R. McDougall AWCR Jurisdictional Review Report (PDF, 1.1MB) - March 2010
Ministry of Agriculture (AGRI)
- Nutrient Management Practices: Technical Report (PDF, 778.1KB) - Oct 2017
- Review of Nutrient Management Planning in BC (PDF, 718.6KB) - Sept 2017
- Jurisdictional Scan Nutrient Management Regulations (PDF, 560.5KB) - Sept 2017
- Jurisdictional Scan of Agricultural Cost Share and Support Programs (PDF, 309.3KB) - Sept 2017
- Summary of Nutrient Management Technology Options in the Context of Hullcar (PDF, 596.5KB) - Sept 2017
- Summary of Manure Handling Systems in the Context of Hullcar (PDF, 391.2KB) - Oct 2017
- Technical Brief for Nutrient Management (PDF, 240.9KB) - Oct 2017
- Technical Brief for Land Application (PDF, 242.6KB) - Nov 23 2015
- Technical Brief for Permanent Storage (PDF, 197KB) - Nov 23 2015
- Technical Brief for Temporary Field Storage (PDF, 194.6KB) - Nov 23 2015
Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRO)
Reports and data
- August 2006 - Report on Groundwater Potential Evaluation for the Hullcar Area, Township of Spallumcheen, BC (Golder Associates) (PDF, 16MB)
- February 2007 - Nitrates in Groundwater - Ministry of Environment Water Stewardship Information Series (PDF, 169.6KB)
- February 2016 - MOE Review of the Hullcar Aquifer Water Quality Results (PDF, 2.9MB)
- March 2016 - FLNR Review - Summary of Ambient Groundwater Monitoring of the Hullcar Aquifers No. 102 and 103 (PDF, 473.3KB)
- March 2016 - MOE presentation Surface and Ground Water Quality Review: Hullcar Aquifers (PDF, 1.3MB)
- March 2016 - IHA presentation Hullcar Area Nitrates (PDF, 898.4KB)
- March 2016 - FLNR presentation Ambient Groundwater Monitoring: Hullcar Aquifers No. 102 and 103 (PDF, 299.8KB)
- May 2016 - MOE Review of the Hullcar Aquifer Water Quality Results (PDF, 688.4KB)
- January 2017 - Chart and Summary of Environmental Studies (PDF, 432KB)
- February 2017 - Integrated Monitoring Study - Phase 1 and 2 Assessment, Golder Associates (PDF, 24MB)
- April 2017 - FLNR Memo to ENV - Well & SS Water Supply Inspections (PDF, 2.1MB)
- March 2018 - Summary of Comments received on POLIS report (PDF, 1.9MB)
- March 2018 - 2017 Post Harvest Nitrate Study (PDF)
- May 2018 - Assessment Comparing Steele Springs to Deep Creek (PDF, 4MB)
- September 2019 - Hullcar Valley (Clacahl) Groundwater Observation Well Installation (PDF, 5MB)
- March 2020 - 2018-19 Post-Harvest Nitrate Study – Final Report (PDF, 1.1MB)
- December 2020 - 2019-20 Post-Harvest Nitrate Study – Final Report (PDF, 1.7MB)
- April 2021 - Soil Nitrate Survey of Agricultural Fields in the Hullcar Valley in 2020 – Final Report (PDF, 274KB)
- The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner released their report on the disclosure of information related to water quality in Spallumcheen on June 29, 2016, the report is available in full on the OIPC website. The Minister of Environment responded to that report, and her statement can also be viewed on the Newsroom page.
- Action Plan Update - June 6, 2016 (PDF, 371KB)
- Action Plan Update - June 27, 2016 (PDF, 373.1KB)
- Action Plan Update – July 20, 2016 (PDF, 362.9KB)
- Action Plan Update – August 23, 2016 (PDF, 384.7KB)
- Action Plan Update - September 10, 2016 (PDF, 278.2KB)
- Action Plan Update - September 26, 2016 (PDF, 514.9KB)
- Action Plan Update - October 11, 2016 (PDF, 324.2KB)
- Action Plan Update - October 21, 2016 (PDF, 379.3KB)
- Action Plan Update - November 4, 2016 (PDF, 259KB)
- Action Plan Update - November 18, 2016 (PDF, 247.2KB)
- Action Plan Update - December 5, 2016 (PDF, 254.1KB)
- Action Plan Update - December 19, 2016 (PDF, 289.2KB)
- Action Plan Update - January 23, 2017 (PDF, 206.7KB)
- Action Plan Update - February 6, 2017 (PDF, 1.1MB)
- Action Plan Update - February 22, 2017 (PDF, 277.5KB)
- Action Plan Update - March 31, 2017 (PDF, 677.5KB)
- Action Plan Update - September 5, 2017 (PDF, 2.4MB)
- Action Plan Update - May 11, 2018 (PDF, 2.6MB)
Compliance inspections and managing environmental risk
Environmental Protection staff have shared resources on best management practices and ensured agricultural operators in the Clcahl/Hullcar Valley are aware of their responsibilities and regulatory requirements under the Code of Practice for Agricultural Environmental Management.
The Province has also conducted inspections and issued pollution abatement and prevention orders to agricultural operators across Clcahl/Hullcar Valley.
- Pollution abatement orders force a person or group to take immediate action to manage risks to human health and the environment.
- Pollution prevention orders force a person or group to prevent the release of a substance into the environment that will cause pollution.
The purpose of these orders is to reduce and prevent agricultural waste from entering the Clcahl/Hullcar Aquifer.
The new Code of Practice for Agricultural Environmental Management came into effect on February 28, 2019. It applies to all agricultural operations in B.C., from small hobby farms to large commercial operations and aims to ensure that drinking water, watercourses and air are protected. The Clcahl/Hullcar Valley is the first place the Code is being implemented in B.C.
The following documents regarding Nutrient Management Plans and soil, moisture and manure data are subject to copyright and are being disclosed to the public under section 25 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, as permitted under section 32.1(1) of the Copyright Act.
This disclosure does not constitute a licence to exercise the rights of the copyright owner, as set out in the Copyright Act, including the right to reproduce, distribute and publish these documents.
Orders no longer in effect
108432 Kenneth Regehr Feedlot and Farm
- 2019-Sep-24 Order 108432 No Longer in Effect - KRegehr (PDF, 55KB)
- 2018-Jun-26 Annual Summary - KRegehr (PDF, 586.6KB)
- 2017-Jun-30 Annual Summary – KRegehr (PDF, 5MB)
- 2016-Dec-23 Environmental Impact Study - KRegehr (PDF, 19.8MB)
- 2016-Nov-28 Director Letter - Confirmation of Dates - KRegehr (PDF, 273.4KB)
- 2016-Sep-23 TOR and Work Plan - KRegehr (PDF, 6.1MB)
- 2016-Jul-29 Pollution Prevention Order 108432 Amendment - KRegehr (PDF, 273.9KB)
- 2016-May-18 Pollution Prevention Order 108432 - KRegehr (PDF, 310.3KB)
- 2019-Sep-24 Order 108389 No Longer in Effect - Grace-Mar (PDF, 96KB)
- 2018-April-27 Annual Report – Grace-Mar (PDF, 3MB)
- 2017-Jun-29 Annual Report – Grace-Mar (PDF, 8MB)
- 2017-May-23 Pollution Abatement Order 108389 Amendment - Grace-Mar (PDF, 232.2KB)
- 2017-Mar-01 Pollution Abatement Order 108389 Amendment - Grace-Mar (PDF, 228.6KB)
- 2017-Feb-27 Environmental Impact Assessment - Grace-Mar (PDF, 18.2MB)
- 2017 Nutrient Management Plan v.2 - Grace-Mar (PDF 1.32MB)
- 2016-Sep-13 TOR and Work Plan Amendment Approval - Grace-Mar (PDF, 232.1KB)
- 2016-Jul-29 TOR Approval - Grace-Mar (PDF, 396KB)
- 2016-Jul-29 Pollution Abatement Order 108389 Amendment - Grace-Mar (PDF, 232.1KB)
- 2016-Jun-28 TOR and Work Plan - Grace-Mar (PDF 3.34MB)
- 2016-May-12 Pollution Abatement Order 108389 - Grace-Mar (PDF, 294.9KB)
- 2019-Aug-13 IR135495 Advisory - Grace-Mar (PDF, 105KB)
- 2018-Jan-22 IR74069 Notice - Grace-Mar (PDF, 101.5KB)
- 2017-Jul-18 IR59938 Warning - Grace-Mar (PDF, 86.8KB)
- 2017-Mar-29 IR51040 AMP - Grace-Mar (PDF, 76.5KB)
- 2017-Mar-13 IR48771 Notice - Grace-Mar (PDF, 130.8KB)
- 2016-Feb-10 IR25608 Warning - Grace-Mar (PDF, 84.5KB)
- 2019-Sep-24 Order 108387 No Longer in Effect - Jansen (PDF, 95KB)
- 2018-Jun-01 2018 Nutrient Management Plan - Jansen (PDF, 2.6MB)
- 2017-Dec-18 Annual Summary - Jansen (PDF, 1.1MB)
- 2017-Sep-25 Pollution Abatement Order 108387 Amendment - Jansen (PDF, 134.1KB)
- 2017-Sep-06 Pollution Abatement Order 108387 Amendment - Jansen (PDF, 133.5KB)
- 2017-Jul-30 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Action Plan v.3 - Jansen (PDF, 491.4KB)
- 2017-May-24 2017 Nutrient Management Plan - Jansen (PDF, 1.6MB)
- 2017-Feb-27 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) - Jansen (PDF, 47MB)
- 2016-Oct-28 Pollution Abatement Order 108387 Amendment - Jansen (PDF, 233.4KB)
- 2016-Jul-29 Pollution Abatement Order 108387 Amendment - Jansen (PDF, 273KB)
- 2016-Jul Terms of Reference (TOR) and Work Plan - Jansen (PDF, 3.5MB)
- 2016-May-12 Pollution Abatement Order 108387 - Jansen (PDF, 312.2KB)
- 2019-Sep-24 Order 108368 No Longer in Effect – Friesen (PDF, 132KB)
- 2017 Farm Book v.2 - Friesen (PDF, 418.7KB)
- 2016-Jun-29 Pollution Abatement Order 108368 Amendment - Friesen (PDF, 265.7KB)
- 2016-May-12 Pollution Abatement Order 108368 - Friesen (PDF, 341.9KB)
- 2016 Farm Book v.2 - Friesen (PDF, 420.5KB)
- 2017-Dec-01 Order 107156 No Longer in Effect - DRegehr (PDF, 358.3KB)
- 2017-Nov-06 2018 NMP v.3 - DRegehr (PDF, 1.2MB)
- 2017-Nov-06 2017 NMP v.2 - DRegehr (PDF, 1.2MB)
- 2016 PHNS Soil Data - DRegehr (PDF, 1.7MB)
- 2014-2016 Well Water Nitrate Data - DRegehr (PDF, 3.4MB)
- 2014-2016 Nutrient Management Plan Soil Data - DRegehr (PDF, 6MB)
- 2014-2016 Annual Summaries - DRegehr (PDF, 573KB)
- 2014-Mar-06 Information Order 107156 - DRegehr (PDF, 158.5KB)
- 2016-Sep-30 Order 108371 No Longer in Effect - Huxley (PDF, 192.1KB)
- 2016-Jul-18 2016 Manure & Nutrient Management Report - Huxley (PDF, 1.5MB)
- 2016-Jun-22 Polltuion Abatement Order 108371 Amendment - Huxley (PDF, 268.7KB)
- 2016-May-12 Pollution Abatement Order 108371 - Huxley (PDF, 335.9KB)
108431 Purple Springs Nursery Inc and Joe Klassen
- 2017-Jun-20 Order 108431 No Longer in Effect - Purple Springs (PDF, 358.2KB)
- 2017 Farmbook - Purple Springs (PDF, 2.7MB)
- 2016-Jun-07 Pollution Prevention Order 108431 - Purple Springs (PDF, 227.4KB)