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Mount Polley: Interior Health issues new warning against drinking Quesnel Lake water

Posted August 24, 2014 by Damien Gillis in Health and Environment
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Mount Polley- Interior Health issues new warning against drinking Quesnel Lake water

Debris pouring into Quesnel Lake (Photo: Farhan Umedaly, Vovo Productions / Desmog.ca)

An advisory from Interior Health yesterday raises fresh questions about the quality of drinking water from Quensnel Lake following the Mount Polley tailings dam breach.

“Although test results continue to show that water sourced from Quesnel Lake is safe to drink, reports indicate that water quality is changing as lake water and the sediment plume shifts,” the advisory notes, raising doubt about the earlier lifting of a drinking water ban for the town of Likely, on Quensnel Lake.

The reappearance of water quality concerns on Quesnel Lake may be linked to the government’s initial cleanup plan, which has involved pumping contaminated water out of Polley Lake, next to the collapsed dam, and into the larger and deeper Quesnel Lake, via Hazeltine Creek.

“Residents who source their water from Quesnel Lake may notice increased turbidity, sediment, and/or a change in taste or odour,” the latest advisory states.

In these cases, residents may wish to consider using alternate sources for their water. Specifically individuals are reminded they should not be drinking cloudy water…Interior Health is continuously reviewing data provided by Ministry of Environment.

The warning comes on the heels of independent biologist Alexandra Morton’s documentation of a mysterious blue film covering Quesnel Lake and river – and the discovery of elevated levels of toxic selenium in fish found in Polley Lake and Quesnel Lake.

“A Do Not Use order for drinking water, personal, and recreational use remains in effect for the impact zone directly affected by the by the Mount Polley Mine tailings pond breach,” the advisory reminds the public. The ongoing Do Not Use order encompasses Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek, and “the area within 100 metres of the visible sediment plume where Hazeltine Creek runs into Quesnel Lake”.

A map of water restriction areas can be found here.

As for what to make of these conflicting statements coming from government officials, local biologist and consultant to Soda Creek First Nation Rick Holmes recently told Desmog.caAt this stage the impacts on Quesnel Lake are virtually unknown.” 

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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.


19 Comments


  1.  

    it is amazing how a regular citizen making even 1/20 of the mess this mining company did and it gets to open another mine up north. This company will endanger 3 major rivers of the north, Skeena, Nass and Stikine with its mining activities. I do wonder at the desperation of our gov to put up with the inept stewardship of the mining company. I can only hope the Tahltan will see their lands and the waters of northern BC protected and this company given the heave ho!




  2.  
    Don F.

    I would say to the good people of that area that I am simply not qualified to say that your water is safe. I don’t believe that Minister Polak nor most of her ministry are qualified to tell you your water is safe. You simply cannot trust to get the truth because they are unqualified to give it to you. They also have an agenda.
    Please don’t drink it at this point and keep yourself safe!




  3.  
    larry Woodruff

    the government is pumping contaminated water from polly into quesnel lake ???? spreading the contamination??? the Government should have the mine dredging and sucking the sludge(tailings) out of the lakes as fast as possible and carting it away at the mines expense. Dumping it into a deeper lake so dilution will give better tests is stupid –that makes fish habitats and bottom of the lake contaminated — all this to save face and save their corporate buddies.




    •  
      Damien Gillis

      Yes, Larry, but where to? That’s the problem with spilling 4.5 million cubic metres of toxic tailings…An expert on Global TV the other night described that with the typical dump truck holding 8 cubic metres, that would mean well over half a million loads to remove all that debris!

      So this is the bright idea they’ve come up with – which was really the company’s plan all along: dump the tailings overflow into Quesnel Lake – via Hazeltine creek – thus contaminating a true ecological treasure. One of the deepest fjord lakes int he world – with spectacular, pristine drinking water. To what degree this presents long-term impacts on water quality remains to be seen, but probably safe to say that people, animals and fish there have lost something very special.

      And none of this should come as a surprise to any of the key players involved.




  4.  
    Pam Bevan

    CRIMINAL THAT THEY ISSUED A SAFE DRINKING WATER ADVISORY ONLY TO ISSUE THIS WARNING DAYS LATER. DRINK AT YOUR OWN RISK. People are getting sick already. Why not be a real journalist and do some investigative reporting on the the residents and animals health in the area.




  5.  
    Ron Wilton

    What ‘are’ we going to do about it????????????




  6.  
    valerie woolgar

    Disgraceful, and those living around the area are especially helpless. This would once again lie dormant if it wasn’t for certain people checking the murky water now toxic not believing the government that the water is safe. Why put toxic garbage into Quesnel Lake. As above, this is not clean up. We sit back and wait. Once again, helpless as big corp. do what they want. What will it take to stand up and really do something for real here and about this. We just can’t keep reporting ‘news’ and letting our land rot. We need action, and i for one am up for it. But just needs organization. The mines need to stop.. They are irrresponsible.




    •  

      That’s the spirit!
      OK! … I am totally in on taking back our country by voting in “independent” MP’s or MLA’s … It’s very simple when you think about it; anyone other than an independent has;
      – party platform
      – party agenda, and
      – the PARTY WHIP!
      to contend with; they are so busy covering for them selves they forget about us!

      So, to get someone elected that was “Put there by the electorate” they would have NO ONE ELSE but US to answer to … Would they?

      Not only that … But … who would they ask direction from? … US!

      So … first off “ABC” … Anyone But HARPER! … That’s a given.
      Then let’s float out our own “Independents 4 Independence” effort and see if people don’t get the relevance of it.

      Check out the blog write-up of it here;
      http://wtfwhywilly.com/2014/03/11/the-elusive-yet-truly-representative-mp/




  7.  
    Steve Peterson

    They ( mt. Polley ) told us they need to drain Polley lake cause its close to bursting the banks that the breach made at the initial break in the dam. They just doubled the amount of pumping into the creek and down into Quesnel lake. It’s now 20,000 gpm running down their tailings river. And the cloudy water in quesnel lake is from the initial blast into quesnel lake, a massive plume of toxins and other nasty stuff. Some say its just clay from the creek bed but i dont think so.




  8.  
    Julia Madison

    And so the clean up plan for the once pristine Lake Polly (now a tailings storage catchment) The tailings breach clean up is to empty it all into the bigger Lake Quennel..which drains into the mighty Frazer..which flows thru BC and into the straight of Georgia. Its obvious there is absolutley NO PLAN from Imperial Metals..I say Shut them down..confiscate all their assets to try and fix this.




  9.  
    Anna

    Why pump it down hazel ten creek bed which is full of sludge from pond put some more in the watershed!!!




  10.  
    oli

    Were doing every thing we can to claen up this lake we contaminated. Yea im talking about polly lake. Quesnel lake was our proposed tailings pond dump site for years. We will just keep polluting this beautiful wattershed green washed with a twist on the english language calling it a clean up effort to save polly. Polly want a cracker?? We are the canary’s. The people I know who have had to vacate ther area because of respiratory issues and digestive tract problems such as diarrhea and puking. But the water meets the standard govt poisining recomendations. And none of these people drank the watter or got near it for that matter. Would you if your were physically ill just being in proximity.?? Clean this up. And put it back. Not basing your clean up efforts on mathimatics justifying the dilution of said materials. Put it back all ov it…………




  11.  
    vicki

    You got to wonder who the hell Interior Health works for — the public or corporate entities. My money is on corporations. Shame.




  12.  
    carie bicchieri

    The reappearance of water quality concerns on Quesnel Lake may be linked to the government’s initial cleanup plan, which has involved pumping contaminated water out of Polley Lake, next to the collapsed dam, and into the larger and deeper Quesnel Lake, via Hazeltine Creek.
    This is not making any SENSE to me at all..Why would they pump contaminated water out of a lake and put it into another????? What the Heck? What about the fish, wildlife, Everything!!!! Total confusion on my part.. Is this what we call Clean UP???? Get it out of there, not back into!!!!!!
    Carie Bicchieri




    •  
      Damien Gillis

      I’m sure many people have the same questions you do about this “clean-up” plan, Carie.




      •  
        JasonS

        When you look at the overhead pictures of where the creek washes into the lake and you see all of that new white sand . Realize that sand and all the mud and chemicals will be washing down through into Quesnel lake and into the Fraser for years and years. But at least the mine has a lot more storage for more poison concentrates, so fire it up again !. The system works.
        Brought to you by drill Baby Bill ! And I believe in $$profit$$ .Christy Clark





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