Mount-Polley-Mine-Hazeltine-Creek-Spill-Site.jpg

10 Days In, No Cleanup Effort at Site of Imperial Metals Mount Polley Mine Spill

It has been 10 days since the tailings pond holding billions of litres of mining waste breached at the Mount Polley mine near Likely, B.C. sending arsenic and mercury-laced water and slurry into the Hazeltine Creek which feeds Quesnel Lake, a major source of drinking water and home to one quarter of the province’s sockeye salmon.

 

Yet local residents still have no idea when clean up of the spill site might begin.

 

On a recent trip to the spill site, DeSmog Canada learned no cleanup crews are currently working on removing the tremendous amount of mining waste clogging up what used to be the Hazeltine Creek and spreading out into Quesnel Lake.

 

David Karn, media relations with the ministry of environment, was unable to provide information or comment on an expected cleanup date or who would be performing the cleanup, industry or government.

 

Imperial Metals, also reached out to for comment, was unable to respond by the time of publication.

 

On Tuesday, August 12, representatives from the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) announced a local drinking water ban placed on Quesnel Lake and the Quesnel River would be lifted after sampling showed the water was safe for consumption.

 

A water use ban remains in effect for 100 metres surrounding the debris field at the convergence of the Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake.

 

Coralee Oakes, local MLA and minister of community, sport and development told DeSmog Canada that regular water testing will continue and that sample results will be made available online. The CRD will continue to supply residents and tourists with free drinking water and temporary showers at a forestry camp.

 

But community members have expressed concern over the remnants of the spill, which sit leaching into the lake, and a large cloudy plume of suspended solids in the water, visible from the air.

 

Richard Holmes, fisheries biologist with Cariboo Envirotech and local resident for 38 years, said sophisticated equipment is needed to survey the extent of the spill underwater.

 

“We’re talking with industry about getting some underwater cameras in there,” he said.

 

Holmes is working with the Soda Creek First Nation to ensure First Nations are involved in cleanup efforts, once they begin.

 

In the meantime, locals are left to speculate about lingering contaminants in their water.

 

Despite the recently-lifted drinking water ban, many residents admitted they will not drink the water.

 

Freshwater expert and biogeochemist Dr. David Schindler said random, localized sampling of contaminated water “may not detect the damage done.”

 

“I understand that considerable arsenic, mercury, cadmium, lead and copper were among the elements released,” he said. “All are extremely toxic.”

 

Schindler said he suspects the biggest long-term threat lies in areas where sediment from the spill overlaps with spawning and rearing habitat for fish.

 

“In the St. Lawrence River, most of the contamination of fish with mercury occurs at a few sites where contaminated sediment is deposited and [which] fish also use for feeding or nursery habitat,” he said.

 

But detailed knowledge of spill sites is usually scant, he said. “Unfortunately, there is not this basic sort of information available for most sites and the sampling done after an accident is more or less random.”

 

“Our monitoring of habitats around all industrial sites in important aquatic systems in this country is in serious need of upgrading,” he said. “Without background information on fish populations, habitats and toxic concentrations, it is almost impossible to determine how much damage is done.”

 

“Sometimes it is hard to believe that the lack of pre-accident information is not deliberate,” he said.

 

This article is part of a joint-venture between the Vancouver Observer and DeSmog Canada.

Image Credit: Carol Linnitt

 

We hear it time and time again:
“These are the stories that need to be told and you are some of the only ones telling them,” John, a new member of The Narwhal, wrote in to say.

Investigating stories others aren’t. Diving deep to find solutions to the climate crisis. Sending journalists to report from remote locations for days and sometimes weeks on end. These are the core tenets of what we do here at The Narwhal. It’s also the kind of work that takes time and resources to pull off.

That might sound obvious, but it’s far from reality in many shrinking and cash-strapped Canadian newsrooms. So what’s The Narwhal’s secret sauce? Thousands of members like John who support our non-profit, ad-free journalism by giving whatever they can afford each month (or year).

But here’s the thing: just two per cent of The Narwhal’s readers step up to keep our stories free for all to read. Will you join the two per cent and become a member of The Narwhal today?
We hear it time and time again:
“These are the stories that need to be told and you are some of the only ones telling them,” John, a new member of The Narwhal, wrote in to say.

Investigating stories others aren’t. Diving deep to find solutions to the climate crisis. Sending journalists to report from remote locations for days and sometimes weeks on end. These are the core tenets of what we do here at The Narwhal. It’s also the kind of work that takes time and resources to pull off.

That might sound obvious, but it’s far from reality in many shrinking and cash-strapped Canadian newsrooms. So what’s The Narwhal’s secret sauce? Thousands of members like John who support our non-profit, ad-free journalism by giving whatever they can afford each month (or year).

But here’s the thing: just two per cent of The Narwhal’s readers step up to keep our stories free for all to read. Will you join the two per cent and become a member of The Narwhal today?

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs hosted a Peace and Unity gathering. RCMP made arrests

This week Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs welcomed a delegation from across the country and beyond to the yintah (territory) for a Peace and Unity Summit. Through...

Continue reading

Recent Posts

Support investigative journalism you won't find anywhere else
Support investigative journalism you won't find anywhere else
Get The Narwhal in your inbox!
People always tell us they love our newsletter. Find out yourself with a weekly dose of our ad‑free, independent journalism
Get The Narwhal in your inbox!
People always tell us they love our newsletter. Find out yourself with a weekly dose of our ad‑free, independent journalism