This is the third article in a series inspired by a public update meeting hosted by Mount Polley Mine in Williams Lake in December 2018.
A Quesnel Lake resident is concerned why Mount Polley Mine is only required to sample Quesnel Lake four times a year under its current comprehensive environmental monitoring plan (CEMP).
During a public meeting hosted by the mine on Dec. 13 in Williams Lake to update the public about ongoing remediation because of the August 2014 tailings impoundment breach, Doug Watt asked under what authority that frequency was approved.
Responding, environmental manager Colleen Hughes said while the CEMP stipulates four times a year to sample Quesnel Lake, the mine is constantly reviewing data.
“If we have data that shows something is different we make every effort to get out there,” she said. “We do sample our discharge water weekly regardless and we have results from that sampling.”
Valerie Holweck, environmental co-ordinator, said if anyone on Quesnel Lake contacted them with concerns the mine would follow up.
“We do encourage people that if they see something, such as a turbidity plum, we want to know about it and we will go out there,” Holweck said.
Likely resident Lisa Kraus has been collecting water samples from Quesnel River at the Likely Bridge monthly since about three months after the 2014 breach.
“The samples go to Environment Canada,” Kraus told the Tribune Thursday, Jan. 10. “They haven’t asked me to redo any sampling due to concerns in a long time.”
Watt said sampling was done more often than four times a year after the 2014 tailings impoundment breach.
“As a member of the public I don’t remember ever being asked to discuss reducing sampling on the lake from weekly and monthly down to four times a year. That’s the question I’m asking.”
Carol Danyluk, a senior environmental protection officer with the Ministry of Environment who attended the meeting said reducing the frequency was warranted at this time.
“If that monitoring shows that we do not have a consistent understanding of water quality of the lake then that can be reconsidered and we could work to put more monitoring in place,” Danyluk said.
Doug Hill, director with the MOE in Williams Lake, said the CEMP will be implemented over the next year.
“The approval of the CEMP is conditional on several things and one of those was a further review in 2019, mainly taking into account things coming out of Mount Polley finalizing its conceptual remediation plan,” Hill said.
Watt said residents living on the lake want to be involved with any discussions and changes that may affect the lake.
Responding Hill said it is “fair and reasonable” that people living on the lake be informed about the monitoring program and the results and given the opportunity to give feedback to both Mount Polley and the ministry.
Watt said he knows that “99 per cent of the people are not interested in all the technical details,” including himself,” but because they are concerned do want to be somewhat involved.
Hughes said in 2015 the B.C. Lake Stewardship Society did some training with people on Quesnel Lake and the MOE offered to help Quesnel Lake set up a stewardship group.
“That’s something I really encourage people, if they live on or near a lake, to set up,” Hughes said.
Lyn Anglin, Imperial Metals vice-president of environmental affairs, said equipment can be provided for stewardship groups to do water monitoring.
Earlier this week Imperial Metals announced it will suspend operations at the end of May 2019, but that the shutdown would not impact its ongoing environmental monitoring and remediation program.