Debris from the Mount Polley tailings pond breach is being taken out of the lake at West Fraser’s reload area west of the junction on Quesnel Lake Sunday. The wood was barged more than 20 kilometres from the impact zone at Hazeltine Creek to the site

Debris from the Mount Polley tailings pond breach is being taken out of the lake at West Fraser’s reload area west of the junction on Quesnel Lake Sunday. The wood was barged more than 20 kilometres from the impact zone at Hazeltine Creek to the site

Polley mine cleanup moves forward

It has been just over one month since the Mount Polley tailings pond breach.

It has been just over one month since the Mount Polley tailings pond breach, and Imperial Metals vice-president Steve Robertson reports there is much cleanup work underway.

“Winter is just around the corner,” Robertson said Tuesday. “We are trying to get as much work done as we can before the weather turns. We have as many people working in the area as we can at this point.”

Of immediate concern, Robertson said, is completing work to reduce any risks to human health.

One of those risks includes large wood debris in Quesnel Lake, some of which has been barged to West Fraser’s reload area for sorting and trucking.

Robertson said the debris, which is a hazard to boaters in the lake, is continuing to be collected in the water while some areas on land have had to wait as the company awaits permits to work in archaeologically sensitive areas.

“There is still a lot of shore clean up that needs to be done,” he said, noting Mitchell Bay was hit particularly hard by debris.

Building a dyke to secure the remaining tailings within the breached storage facility was another immediate issue, Robertson said. That work is now one week from completion and will allow workers to safely be in the Hazeltine Creek area.

Robertson said water tests continue to be conducted on a regular basis and have never shown a risk to human safety.

“The good thing about Mount Polley is the tailings are not very toxic,” Robertson explained, noting during the 17 years the mine has been operating the metals in the mine tailings have proven within a closed system to not be very susceptible to leaching.

“The (most significant) environmental impact (from the breach) was the scouring event,” he said of the damage caused when the breach burst down the mountain taking the forests surrounding Hazeltine Creek with it.

“I don’t want to minimize it, but the long term effects on the environment will be relatively low,” Robertson said. “It’s not going to be as dire as people have said.”

That being said, the company is providing water filtration systems for residents west of Cariboo Island to upstream of the Quesnel Lake Research Centre due to TSS (total suspended solids) plumes which have been seen in Quesnel Lake in recent weeks.

Robertson said the plume is at depth in Quesnel Lake since the breach and is being brought to the surface in plumes as the lake turns over and flushes it out.

Additionally, workers have been trying to drain Polley Lake to reduce the risk of it breaching its blocked outlet since taking on an additional six million cubic metres of water during the breach.

Robertson said the company has also stepped up its research by bringing in two vessels and research teams which will map the bottom of the lake, take samples at various depths and compile the information and complete modelling to predict future outcomes. The west arm of Quesnel Lake is the focus of all the work, he noted.

Imperial Metals is hosting another of its regular town hall meetings in Likely this week to discuss the ongoing work mentioned above.

The meeting is expected to get underway at 7 p.m. Wednesday and will be in the format of an open house with government agencies also in attendance.

Robertson said they are releasing details of their plans surrounding the cleanup as they can, however, Imperial Metals is expected to submit a detailed plan to government by Sept. 15.

Roberson wouldn’t comment on the likelihood of whether the mine could reopen, however, he said he is not ignoring the calls from the union and others to reopen the mine.

“Until we have the investigation complete … it’s very difficult to talk about a plan (to reopen) … we have to take it one step at a time — this is a long path ahead of us.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The body of Kenneth Seymour Michell was discovered Jan. 14, 2021, behind a Williams Lake business a day after he was released by a judge on conditions. (Photo submitted)
Family looks for answers after Indigenous man dies by suicide following release from custody

System does not care about Indigenous peoples, says First Nations Leadership Council

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Interior Health reported 43 new COVID-19 cases in the region Feb. 23, 2021 and no additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
43 new cases of COVID reported in Interior Health

No new deaths, Williams Lake outbreak over

A COVID-19 sign is seen last spring at the First Nations community of Canim Lake (Tsq’ scen). (Martina Dopf photo)
Another Canim Lake elder dies of COVID-19

The man was the husband of an elder who died last month outside the community.

Pink Shirt Day is Feb. 24.
This Pink Shirt Day let’s ‘lift each other up’

There are several warning signs regarding bullying:

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

When his owner had knee surgery, Kevin, 2, was able to continue to go for walks thanks to volunteers from Elder Dog Canada. (Contributed photo)
B.C. woman has nothing but praise for Elder Dog Canada

National organization has a fleet of volunteer walkers ready, but needs more clients to serve

Justin Morissette is still recovering from the injuries sustained in the altercation. He is not yet able to walk without assistance. (Justin Morissette, Twitter)
B.C. man suing city and police over violent altercation with anti-LGBTQ preacher

Justin Morissette argues police knew the threat the preacher posed, and failed to keep the peace

Jack Barnes, who was Cowichan Valley Capitals property from May 2020 until last week, scores a goal for the Penticton Vees during the 2019-20 BCHL season. (Brennan Phillips/Black Press)
COVID-crunched BCHL facing trade deadline dilemma with its 20-year-olds

Hard decisions loom when BCHL may or may not resume play

UBC Okanagan students are among the most food insecure in Canada, according to a new study by UBC.
(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
UBC Okanagan students among most food insecure in Canada

42.3 per cent either can’t properly feed themselves, or are worried they will soon run out of money

Oliver Elementary School. (File)
Interior Health reports potential COVID-19 exposure at South Okanagan elementary school

Interior Health lists two dates for the potential exposure

Most Read