Public left in dark on mine cleanup plan

Likely resident Doug Watt responds to previous letter to the editor about Mount Polley.

Editor:

I am writing this letter to follow up on Bonnie Rolston’s letter of Nov 11, 2014. I commiserate and agree with her sentiments regarding the divisions within the community, since the effects of the Mount Polley dam breach, but what needs to be identified is the cause of these widely varied and obviously passionate opinions.

Basically it comes down to a huge lack of trust in Imperial Metals (IMC) and both the provincial and federal governments, due in part to their reticence to provide full information and/or promised assistance in a timely and open manner.

There is no doubt there is a lot going on at the mine site to remediate consequences of the dam breach, and that everyone is working very hard on this project. But in respect to the overall remediation of the tailings pond, Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake, where are they going, what do they need to do to get there, and what is the plan on how they will get there? Where is the draft comprehensive mitigation plans for review by the public, relevant past inspection documents, timely updates of mitigation efforts on-site including studies and plans related to reducing effects of the breach on the environment (i.e. stopping flow of all solids, not just 80 per cent, into Quesnel Lake), and timely distribution of monitoring and test results, such as WQ and bioassay data?

Community meetings in Likely have spread out to six to eight week intervals and the weekly Ministry of Environment reports on the Imperial Metals website have become exceedingly short on hard data, facts and interpretation.

My observation is that the IMC management and scientific team is fully engaged and working at or beyond capacity, but that IMC has obviously limited the resources they are committing to the mitigation efforts at that level, as noted by the deficiencies listed above. They need to provide more capacity within this team.

It seems to me at this point, quickly protecting the environment with the best technology available should be the highest priority.

Quite a number of B.C. provincial politicians and senior ministry officials, right up to the Premier, were in Likely in the days immediately following the breach. They ensured the cleanup would be completed correctly and Likely would be supported.  But in reality it appears all that hot air has wafted over to smooth concerns in Alaska and to promote business in China, leaving Likely in the lurch.

It would also appear the two ministries (Environment and Mines) most directly involved in the Mount Polley operations and remediation also are suffering from lack of adequate resources.

I do commend IMC in regards to their efforts to provide drinking water to those residents affected by the degradation of the water in Quesnel Lake. Prior to the breach Quesnel Lake water was very clear with a turbidity readings approaching zero. Because of the turbidity change, Interior Health should not be saying the Quesnel Lake water is drinkable. Just looking at the green/gray lake water now certainly does not provide a sense of trust, particularly with the expectation the turbidity is likely to jump from the reported present four NTU or so to as high as 20 NTU (IMC, Nov. 14, 2014) over the next few months.

The lack of active participation by DFO and Environment Canada Enforcement is also extremely obvious. What are they doing to ensure the flow of solids into Quesnel Lake is fully stopped in as short a time period as possible?

The public needs to be educated on the breach remediation through full engagement of all parties, ensuring open, complete and transparent dissemination of information as discussed above.

They need to provide more capacity within this team, and if it is a financial limitation. It seems to me at this point, quickly protecting the environment with the best technology available should be the highest priority compared to spending $18 million on providing improved shareholder value (stock buy back, Oct. 16, 2014).

I fully supported the operation of Mount Polley before the breach, and I fully support their developing plans for expediting startup by temporarily bypassing the tailings pond. There are certainly synergies of operations and cash flow that will assist IMC in the remediation, as well as the obvious benefits to the workers and local economy.

I would also like to again thank all those volunteers in the community who jumped right in to handle the emergency response during the initial breach, as well as all volunteers who continue to work to improve the community during these difficult times. I fully expect Quesnel Lake and Likely will recover, and in the longer term Likely will continue to “… pull together as a family for the future of our children … and many generations to follow.”

Doug Watt

Likely resident and Quesnel Lake property owner

– Not a Mount Polley employee, but still unemployed due to the breach.

 

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