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Elk Valley Water Quality Plan Phase 1

Teck held an open house in Fernie in November 2013.  - Tamara Hynd
Teck held an open house in Fernie in November 2013.
— image credit: Tamara Hynd

The Elk Valley Water Quality Plan Phase 1 Consultation Summary report is complete after the first phase of public consultation. The report was prepared by Kirk & Co. Consulting and the Mustel Group Market Research for Teck.

The public consultation took place from October 28 to November 29, 2013 using a discussion guide and feedback form, online engagement, three small group meetings and three open houses which were attended by a total of 67 people, not 110 as previously stated by Chris Stannell from Teck in November 2013. Ninety-six online feedback forms were received plus one written submission.

On March 21, 2013 the toxicity levels of the Elk River made front page news across B.C. as the results of a report commissioned by the Glacier National Park in Montana, U.S. clearly linked the effects of open pit coal mining on the water quality in the Elk Valley including Fording River, Elk River, and Lake Koocanusa. The Hauer and Sexton Transboundary Flathead River: Water Quality and Aquatic Life Use Report published on March 4, 2013 at the University of Montana stated that waterways in the Elk Basin below mine sites had elevated nitrate, sulfate and selenium concentrations levels.

In April 2013, the government of B.C. established a process which Teck was ordered to complete to create an Elk Valley Water Quality Plan (EVWQP) to address water quality concerns associated with mining activity in the Elk Valley watershed.

The feed back form asked the publics level of agreement for three topics:  development of the EVWQP,  water treatment and water quality management, and socio-economic impact analysis. Taking a step back, the feedback form in itself provided very basic information lacking actual details regarding the successes and failures of the mitigation measures Teck has listed for water treatment and water quality management. Even so, 67 per cent strongly agreed with the current and future water treatment and water quality measures taken by Teck while 22 per cent somewhat agreed and six per cent disagreed, with the remaining four per cent neither agreeing nor disagreeing.

The numbers were almost identical to whether respondents agreed with the scope of the socio-economic impact analysis as outlined by Teck, with 67 per cent strongly agreeing.

This public consultation and development phase of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan is a small part of the Order Teck Coal Ltd. was issued by former B.C. Minister of Environment Terry Lake on April 15, 2013.  Ministry of Environment (MOE) approved of the Terms of Reference on July 22. Teck was given 12 months to complete the plan, which directs them to include public input. Actual target levels for reduction and mitigation of various substances like selenium and nitrate are yet to be set.

A central process requirement in the Order is the establishment of a nine-member Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to provide science-based technical advice to Teck (author of the Plan) and to the public during the development of the Plan.   Information on the Technical Advisory Committee is available at http://elkvalleytac.com/about-2/.

The second consultation phase is anticipated to be in April 2014. Teck is anticipating that the third and final phase of public consultation will be in late May or June.

Kirk & Co. is a consulting company that works with internationally–recognized polling firms to independently analyze and report on large volumes of public and stake holder input. They facilitated the public consultation for B.C Ferries in 2012 which has led to B.C. Ferries announcements of remote route cuts and proposals to place slot machines on ferries servicing main traffic routes in the lower mainland.

The Mustel Group independently verified and analyzed the feedback forms received as part of the Elk Valley public consultation.

To read the Phase 1 consultation summary report, go to http://www.teckelkvalley.com, go to ‘Learn more’ and select ‘see all downloads’.

 

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