The Elk River near Fernie. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

The Elk River near Fernie. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Fernie reports ‘increased presence of selenium’ at secondary water source

The James White Wells are reguarly tested

The City of Fernie has reported rising selenium levels in it’s secondary municipal water source at James White Wells.

“While levels are within the provincial standard of less than 10 micrograms per litre, the City has implemented ongoing independent monitoring and created a response plan should they rise above the limit,” reads a release from the city.

In the release on August 3, Mayor Ange Qualizza described the results as “a challenge, and very disappointing,” adding that the city was already focusing on securing its primary water source at Fairy Creek, which is not influenced by selenium levels in the Elk River.

When queried, a city spokesperson revealed the most recent test result for James White from July 2022 was 4.6 micrograms per litre, and that since more regular testing of the water source began earlier in 2022, the levels have fluctuated between 5 and 9 micrograms per litre – still within provincial tolerances.

When testing started in 2012, the selenium level was 5 micrograms per litre, which was “not flagged as a significant concern at that time as it was within the (provincial) requirements.”

The city’s manager of engineering, Jenny Weir said that the city would cease to use the James White Wells as a water source if the selenium levels ever met or exceeded provincial limits. Instead, Fairy Creek would revert to being the sole water source for the municipality.

The city currently switches back and forth on using Fairy Creek and James White Wells depending on the turbidity of Fairy Creek.

The city is currently drawing from Fairy Creek. Last year, the James White Wells were used for 81 days between May through December due to turbidity issues, systems maintenance and testing at Fairy Creek.

READ MORE: Fernie switches water source, introduced water restrictions (from 2021)
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