Government monitors Quesnel Lake waters in mine breach aftermath

Residents are concerned because the fluorescent green sediment plume in Quesnel Lake is moving past Cariboo Island.

While people continue to wait for the government to release the long-term cleanup plan in the aftermath of the Aug. 4 Mount Polley Mine tailings breach, residents are concerned because the fluorescent green sediment plume in Quesnel Lake is moving past Cariboo Island.

“We have requested additional sampling buoys be installed by MPMC to monitor this wider extent,” a ministry spokesperson told the Tribune, confirming the ministry is aware of the plume moving. “Currently MPMC is conducting sampling along the full extent of the plume.”

Imperial Metals has also investigated reports of the plume extending, but said it found no evidence of it east of Cariboo Island.

“The highest turbidity observed was related to discharge from the Horsefly River which gave the only readings of greater than 1 NTU (up to 2 NTU observed there),” said Steve Robertson, Imperial Metals vice-president of corporate affairs.  “At greater depths, there was a thin layer of higher turbidity water that was observed at about 30 metres depth, but only in two spots.”

The company, does however, continue to monitor areas east of Cariboo Island, but added to date there are no indications that there is a significant plume presence there.

In the meantime, Robertson confirmed water filters are not being offered to residents past Cariboo Island.

“At this time our offer for water filter installation continues to be for areas downstream of Cariboo Island and upstream of QR Research Centre,” he said.

“It should be noted, however, that Interior Health advises against anyone drinking water directly from any lake or stream without treatment.”

The ministry spokesperson said the long term cleanup plan, which should be released in the next few weeks, will require two phases.

The first phase for Mount Polley will detail the installation of works, monitoring and contingency plans through to spring 2015.

Once the plan is finalized, the ministry will review it and hold public information sessions in local communities, said the ministry.

There are also concerns amongst locals because the mine continues to pump water from Polley Lake into Hazeltine Creek and subsequently Quesnel Lake.

This in light of the fact permits were not approved for the mine to release water prior to the breach.

“Sampling indicated the quality of water from Polley Lake is acceptable to release to the receiving environment,” the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the mine has reduced the amount of water being pumped and has gone from using eight pumps and two pipelines down to three pumps into one pipeline. Additionally, large sediments ponds are being constructed at the site, said Robertson.

The plan is to hold water for 24 hours, providing time to allow sediments to drop so that water going into the lake has a large part of the sediment removed.

Additionally a silt curtain was placed at the mouth of Hazeltine Creek, along with silt fences and hay bales at various locations along the length of the creek, particularly in areas where rehabilitation work is being done.

Originally the company said it would pull its cleanup boats out of the lake by then end of October, however, Robertson said some of the shoreline burning of debris will continue into November.

He also discounted reports the mine is running to stockpile product.

“There is no underground work going on at this time, “ he said. “The only activity we have underway is in the open pits, and that work is to get materials for the cleanup and reparation. We are targeting waste material in those activities.”

Mount Polley Mine hosted a tour of the mine site Saturday for local residents and surrounding First Nations communities.