LETTERS: Tunnel vision unwise for effluent discharge

Following up on my letter of Nov. 7, 2016, local residents continue to be concerned.


Following up on my letter of Nov. 7, 2016, local residents continue to be concerned about the B.C. Minister of Environment (MoE) and Imperial Metals Mount Polley Mine’s (MPMC) focus on allowing MPMC to discharge mine effluent into Quesnel Lake rather than further downstream into Quesnel River, apparently based on the “science” of meeting BC Water Quality Guidelines (BCWQG), and not the science of protecting Quesel Lake’s formerly pristine water.

“…Quesnel Lake; a lake which is provincially unique…the deepest lake in British Columbia and possibly the deepest fiord lake in the world… .”

“…contain important habitat for fish species which support a host of species… streams, shores and wetlands of the park have been designated…as critical habitat for salmon and Bull Trout as part of the Cariboo-Chilcotin Land Use Plan…”

“…part of a mosaic of habitat protection components connecting habitats of aquatic and terrestrial species…”

The above three quotes are from the BC Parks 2015 Quesnel Lake Park Management Plan.

We know Quesnel Lake is unique, and that it has to be returned to it’s previously pristine condition, with high quality water that will continue to support a wide range of aquatic life including Salmon, blue listed Bull Trout and the large Gerrard type Rainbow Trout.

The following two quotes are from Premier Christie Clarke and MoE Minister Mary Polak respectively: “…This is a pristine resource for everybody…We are going to be with you, shoulder to shoulder, to do everything we can to return it to the real pristine beauty we all know this lake is for our province, because this is just such an incredible, incredible asset…” (CBC News Aug 8, 2014).

“…This is the very, very beginning…the scale of the initial disaster is tremendous…it is going to take a long time…the province hasn’t fully handed over trust in the company to do its work without government auditing and a strict call for reporting back…certainly an importance… above all else on…the safety of their environment…” (CBC News Nov 24, 2014).

Quesnel Lake was negatively impacted by the dam breach two-and-a-half years ago, the results of which are still with us today, and nobody can yet predict what the long-term impacts will be. The predictive models used do not explain the continued effects seen on the lake by residents (i.e. green water that keeps coming back every year, plugging water filters, slimy water, reduced insect hatches, probable increasing chemical levels above Quesnel Lake pre-breach levels…). And of course there are the reported WQ data inconsistencies between those reported by University of Northern BC, MPMC and MoE.

The MoE tells us the decision to allow the long-term discharge (LTWMP) of mine effluent into Quesnel Lake will be based on science, but the science has not yet determined either the short or long-term effects on the Quesnel Lake environment. Local residents have requested funding assistance from the B.C. government and MoE to allow an independent technical review of existing data and the LTWMP TAR, but not had a positive response yet. And now the Tribune (Nov 9, 2016) reports “…funding for the MOE’s response to the breach has been reduced…by Aug 18, 2018 all parties…will assess the work that’s been done….”

Christy Clark promised to ensure that Quesnel Lake would be returned back to it’s pristine nature, but the government appears ready to extend the “temporary” discharge into a permanent discharge, even as Mary Polak acknowledged that it will be many years before the effects of the breach can be determined and mitigated.

With so many “science” unknowns, and review funding and oversight being reduced, to ensure Quesnel Lake can be returned back to its original pristine state, the government must focus on ensuring that MPMC fully considers the alternative discharge location into the Quesnel River. Cost and convenience are not necessarily the best basis for making such important decisions.

Doug Watt

Likely Chamber Liaison