Common Sense Canadian

Biologist documents blue film on Quesnel River following Mount Polley spill

PostedAugust 20, 2014 by in BC

Independent biologist Alexandra Morton has documented the appearance of a mysterious blue film on the surface of Quesnel Lake and the Quesnel River. Morton has been surveying the region’s aquatic systems – taking water samples, video and photos – in the wake of the Mount Polley tailings spill.

She posted the above video and below photos on her blog yesterday. Taken in the town of Likely, at the northwest tip of Quesnel Lake and mouth of the Quesnel River, Morton says the images correspond with an earlier sighting of the same film on another portion of the lake the day before. “It was visible wherever debris collected. It appeared as a sheen across the entire lake,” Morton noted on her blog.

“When you touch this film, it burns your skin like a jelly fish sting. A small crowd collected and everyone could see it. What is this? What is it doing to the Fraser River?” Morton asked, explaining that the Quesnel River flows into the Fraser, where this summer’s salmon are beginning to return.

I have received reports since the first days after the tailing pond burst that the water far downstream has different colour.
Biologist documents blue film on Quesnel River following Mount Polley spill

Biologist Alexandra Morton samples a blue film on Quesnel Lake (Image: Alexandra Morton)

“Is this chemical layer on the surface of Quesnel Lake a flocculant used to seperate mining waste?” Morton wonders. [see The Common Sense Canadian’s earlier story discussing flocculants or “chemical reagents” in the mining process and potential presence in local aquatic systems] “Is it from the human waste that was apparently loaded into the empty northbound mining trucks and dumped into the tailing pond?  What is it and is it dangerous to life? I had a plankton net in my car and used it to collect a concentrated sample.”

blue film

Additional photos of blue film atop Quesnel Lake and river (Alexandra Morton)

Ministry officials confirm blue film, investigation

After alerting the Interior Health Authority officials to the issue, Morton received the following response, sent by Roger Parsonage, Regional Director, Health Protection:

Thank you again for alerting us about the blue film you are observing at Quesnel Lake. I have contacted the Ministry of Environment who confirmed that they are aware of it and that they have collected samples for analysis. I would appreciate whatever assistance you can provide in getting this message to people who have suffered health effects from exposure to this substance:

  • If possible, see their health care provider for a diagnosis
  • Call our Williams Lake office at 1-888-702-7771 to report details of the exposure, their symptoms, and diagnosis (if available)


About the Author

Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.



    Hi Damian

    you could use this to try to pull the hydrocarbon out of the water.


    It could also be the oil and diesel leaking from the earth movers that are constantly building up the dikes around the tailing pond.Alexandra Morton sometimes over does it as she has done it before over fishfarming.

    Jay Jennings

    Hmmmm. A Governement with integrity……pretty rare occurrence through e history of our province….there are people in Governement who have integrity…there are people we have elected who have that quality….but overall …..we get the government we deserve.

    Chief Walking Eagle

    “The blue film is on top of the water. We don’t know what it is, but who drinks the top of the water. Ever. Or the bottom for that matter.” Ministry of Delaying for Profit


    All the $$ the CONS spend on advertising themselves, but none for health hazards …

    Don F.

    What I find absolutely shocking here is Interior Healths reply to Alex that they would appreciate her assistance in this urgent matter. They state the Ministry of Environment is aware of this film. Shouldn’t there be representatives of both these ministries there at this moment making people aware and controlling the usage of this water.
    What will it take to get these people to act?
    If this substance proves to be carcinogenic isn’t this far to little far to late?


      I was flyfishing the Quesnel River, just below the bridge on the video, the day that Ms Morton was in Likely. I spoke with two technicians from MOE who were taking water samples from the lake and the river, that same day, Monday, August 18. The REAL people at MOE are doing their jobs. It is GOVERNMENT that has reduced the number of inspectors from 12 to the current 3 for the entire province since 2001. We HAVE the regulations and laws to protect our environment and health, what we don’t have is effective ENFORCEMENT by the province.

        Caroline Dillabough

        Isn’t it amazing that the size of the civil service hasn’t decreased, but the numbers of actual inspectors and officers HAS! What that tells me is that government has far too many ‘managers’ and nowhere near enough ‘workers’. Guess which ones cost taxpayers the most money… Just sayin’…

        Damien Gillis

        You raise an important point, Jack. It is my sense in speaking to various ministry officials that the civil service is run off its feet with this one – doing what they can to manage with a real shortage of workforce and resources. This is a govt policy issue, not a problem with the quality or dedication of the people on the ground.


      Shelley Falk Ouellette

      Perhaps it’s time for a change. I believe we need a gov’t that leads with integrity and will uphold our environmental laws. If big business doesn’t like it, too bad. These laws are in place to protect and defend our water, land, air and oceans. When our gov’t deregulate these vital laws to line their pockets, it’s time for them to go..If we don’t stop this poor excuse for a gov’t now, we’ll have no clean water, our oceans will be full of oil sands crude, our air will not be breathable and our forests will die from lack of oxygen.


        That would be a nice change… A government with Integrity.

        Why do we elect clowns who do nothing but sit on their hands?


          Who are PAID to sit on their hands.

          Mary Russell-

          > “Why do we elect clowns who sit on their hands, Lauren? Because the greater public has not the guts to vote for the Greens– the only Party not wedded to endless economic growth in a finite world, and strong in its protection of the gifts of nature that could see us gloriously into the future given the respect they deserve. From saving wild salmon from the depredations of ruthless fish farming regimes, to protecting rivers and lakes from pollution and sell out to corporate interests, to protecting and enlarging arable farming lands in the province– these entities protected and enhanced could not only give us a future worth having but could provide real and heart-healing jobs for thousands. WHY have Canadians so little imagination and so little faith? WHY do we not from one side of Canada to the other, knock the socks off the competition and vote for the Greens? If they fail, at least everything worth having they inherited will still be there to work with, and this cannot be said for the others.

            linda romero

            Be nice to vote for the Green party in BC,but I think they are a little close to Christy.I heard a big turn off rumour that the Liberals helped fund them this time around.And they keep awfully quiet except around election time.What are they saying about this big pond spill?

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