Residents of the area impacted by the Mount Polley Mine tailings pond breach received good news from Interior Health yesterday.
Dr. Trevor Corneil, IH medical officer, announced during a Ministry of the Environment conference call yesterday afternoon that the water advisory has now been rescinded for Likely and area and may be consumed for normal use.
The do not use order for drinking water, personal and recreational use was lifted for all waterways south of 6236 Cedar Creek Road on the Quesnel River and the majority of Quesnel Lake.
The ban only remains in effect for the area that MOE is calling the impact zone, which includes Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek, the tailings pond, and a 100-metre buffer zone where the debris plume entered Quesnel Lake.
“The do not use order has been rescinded and the water advisory is only for what we are calling the impact zone,” said Corneil. “There is no reason to think Quesnel Lake was ever exposed to unsafe contaminants.”
It is now safe from a human health perspective for drinking water, personal use, fishing, swimming, and recreational purposes.
MOE has also assured First Nations that the water is safe for salmon fishing as millions of sockeye are expected to arrive in the Quesnel river systems in the coming weeks.
Corneil has deemed all fish outside the remaining impact zone as safe for human consumption.
“I recognize the important role fishing plays to local residents and First Nations,” said Corneil.
“I have consulted with numerous experts in this field, and I am reassured that the current fish living in these waterways are safe to consume.”
Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines, expects to announce this week how the province will handle the inquiry into the Mount Polley tailings spill, and how the government will deal with tailings ponds throughout the province.
Bennett said he agrees with calls for an independent investigation into the tailings pond dam failure.
“There has to be some independent oversight and insight into that process,” Bennett told CKNW radio.
NDP Energy and Mines Critic Norm Macdonald said an inquiry is definitely in order, but it should be independent of the government.
Macdonald said the B.C. Liberal government bears responsibility for the spill because they have cut the number of people who do inspections significantly.
“Inspections at mines have fallen by 50 per cent since 2001,” Macdonald said.
– With files from Tom Fletcher