COVID-19 outbreak at Site C won’t halt work

Outbreak declared at troubled Site C dam construction project

Workers place concerete at dam's spillway headworks. | BC Hydro

An outbreak of COVID-19 at the Site C dam construction project has been declared by Northern Health, but BC Hydro says it won’t halt work on the project, which is already well behind schedule.

BC Hydro reports that Northern Health has declared an outbreak among the project’s main civil works contractor, Peace River Hydro Partners.

The outbreak is among those working in the contractor’s office complex, and among dam core excavation workers.

“Over the past several weeks, there has been an increase in the number of cases on site,” BC Hydro says in a press release.

“Since the beginning of March, there have been more than 40 cases of COVID-19 reported at Site C. There are currently 13 active cases and 100 workers isolating at home or on site. Of those 13 active cases, seven cases (in two active clusters) are directly linked to the outbreak declaration.

“Over the last year, we’ve implemented a comprehensive plan to avoid the spread of COVID-19 at Site C, including aligning with health guidelines, screening every person accessing the site daily, using thermal scanners at various entry and exit points, and maintaining increased cleaning and physical distancing,” BC Hydro CEO Chris O’Riley said in a press release.

“However, the declaration of the outbreak demonstrates that we need to do better, and we will. In addition to the steps we are already taking, we will look to implement further measures in the coming days.”

The beleaguered project has had so many delays, geotechnical problems and cost increases that it is now expected to be completed a year behind schedule, at a capital cost of $16 billion – nearly twice the budget when it was first green-lit by the previous Liberal government.

But BC Hydro says work on the project will not be halted, as it has permission from the Norther Heralth authority to continue work.

“Northern Health has determined there is no need to stop work on the project, and work will continue as planned,” BC Hydro said in its release.