POLITICS

B.C. hot springs warming up after quake left water cold

01/09/2015 02:15 EST | Updated 03/11/2015 05:59 EDT
HOT SPRINGS COVE, B.C. - Natural hot springs in a remote park on the west coast of Vancouver Island appear to be rebounding after an earthquake earlier this week left the water cold, a local First Nation says.

Officials with the Hesquiaht First Nation, located about 35 kilometres northwest of Tofino, noticed that the Sharp Point Hot Springs in nearby Maquinna Marine Provincial Park were cold to the touch on Thursday. The area was rattled by a magnitude-4.6 earthquake a day earlier.

"It knocked me off my chair," Hesquiaht tribal administrator Bob Anderson said in an interview Friday, referring to the cold water.

"It's a wonderful thing to have in our community, and it would definitely be a blow if it no longer was a hot spring. We were a little bit shocked and dismayed."

By Friday, however, the water temperature had increased dramatically.

Anderson said the stream of water emerging from the spring was about 40 C on Friday morning — about 10 degrees shy of normal. The distinct smell of sulphur, which disappeared following the quake, had also returned, he said.

"It's made a very big rebound overnight and it's probably about 80 per cent," said Anderson.

"We're going to give it a couple of days and go check it again. We're hoping that it gets back to its usual temperature."

Anderson said community staff check on the springs whenever there is an earthquake.

The potential for a quake to damage the springs was underscored following a powerful earthquake off northern B.C. in October 2012, which cut off the hot water at a spring on Haida Gwaii. Parks Canada says the water temperature at those springs has been steadily increasing.

The Hesquiaht First Nation and the Sharp Point Hot Springs sit on either side of a small cove.

Visitors to the hot springs arrive by boat, often as part of whale watching tours. The hot spring pools are at the end of a two-kilometre boardwalk.

Anderson said his community has been looking for ways to benefit from the flow of tourists to the hot springs.

"When people visit there, our community is just right across the bay," he said. "We don't have anything as of yet, but the possibility is always there. It would be a lost opportunity if the springs went cold."

The quake caused minor damage in the community, said Hesquiaht emergency co-ordinator Bernard Charleson, but no one was injured.

"There has been minor damage in the village that we were assessing — broken water pipes, foundations, stuff like that," said Charleson.

"It's good news that the people in the village are OK."

-- By James Keller in Vancouver