Ministry of Environment statutory decision maker Hubert Bunce

Ministry of Environment statutory decision maker Hubert Bunce

MOE scaling down monitoring of Mount Polley Mine breach

The Ministry of Environment is scaling down its monitoring program of impacts from the August 2014 Mount Polley Mine tailings dam breach.

The Ministry of Environment is scaling down its monitoring program of impacts from the August 2014 Mount Polley Mine tailings dam breach.

During a public meeting at Williams Lake city hall hosted by the ministries of environment and forests, biologist Chris Swan said funding for the MOE’s response to the breach has been reduced.

“They had funding for a two-year response for the ministry in a separate pod of funding,” Swan said.

When the dam breached, sending 17 million cubic meters of waste water and eight million cubic meters of tailings and materials spilling into Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake, there was an immediate response by the ministry and several other ministries and agencies, Swan said.

“It was good we had different groups responding because we could compare our findings with each other,” Swan said.

Moving forward, most of the research and monitoring will be conducted by Mount Polley Mining Corporation, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Quesnel River Research Centre, said Hubert Bunce, the ministry’s statutory decision maker.

In October, the University of Northern British Columbia announced its professors Dr. Ellen Petticrew and Dr. Phil Owens had secured nearly $800,000 in funding from the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund (EDF) to continue their research into the impacts on the Quesnel Lake ecosystem after the breach.

Bunce said there are human, health and ecological risk assessments of the breach that are expected to be published in January 2017.

“Those assessments have been built over the two years of data collection that we have had up until now,” Bunce said. “Those are common practices — to do a spill assessment and determining actions post spill, under the contaminated sites regulation.”

Additionally an engineer’s order issued on Aug. 5, 2014, under the Water Sustainability Act by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, has an expiry date of Oct. 1, 2021, said Cariboo regional water manager Dave Weir.

The engineer’s order gave Mount Polley a legal mechanism to clean up the debris and required it to hire suitability qualified professionals and to follow their advice, Weir said, noting by August 2018 all parties involved will be assess the work that’s been done by the mine, and determine what is still required.

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