Mounting concerns at Polley

Tsilhqot’in Nation chiefs are voicing their concern about the government’s decision to approve a permit to discharge water.

  • Dec. 8, 2015 11:00 a.m.

Tsilhqot’in Nation chiefs are voicing their concern about the government’s decision to approve a permit to discharge water into Quesnel Lake from the Mount Polley Mine operations.

“The Tsilhqot’in leadership have been receiving many concerned phone calls about this permit,” Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, stated in a press release.

“We would like to clarify that the Mount Polley project is in Northern Secwepemc territory, but the downstream effects of the dam breach and any effluent are felt by the Tsilhqot’in Nation. (The breach) has had a significant negative impact on our people, our food, social and ceremonial right to fish. We are still waiting to see if the disaster will have a long-term detrimental effect on the smolts and rearing of salmon in Chilko Lake.”

Alphonse and Chief Roger William said prior to the tailings being discharged, it does not meet water quality guidelines, suggesting that Quesnel Lake will be contaminated in a “dilution zone.”

The chiefs maintain any and all discharge should be treated to a level that meets guidelines prior to discharge and the current level of treatment does not achieve that.

Responding to the TNG’s concerns, the Ministry of Environment said all discharges coming from mine sites must meet the requirements of Metal Mine Effluent Regulations which falls under the federal government’s Fisheries Act.

“With most permits issued under the provincial Environmental Management Act, the quality of effluent discharged relies on the initial dilution zone to achieve BC Water Quality Guidelines. This is the norm for treated discharges in B.C.” said a spokesperson for the ministry. “With this permit, any treated and discharged water will be required to meet BC water quality guidelines for aquatic and public health at the edge of the 100 metre dilution zone and in Quesnel Lake at all times.”

Staff from Mount Polley Mine and Imperial Metals are hosting a meeting in Williams Lake Wednesday, Dec. 9. to update the community on the short-term water discharge permit the Ministry of Environment approved last week as well as the mine’s response to the breach, its proposal to restart the mine, and plans for short and long-term water management at the site.

The meeting takes place at the Gibraltar Room from 7 to 9 p.m.