Wildsight Elk Valley Conservation Coordinator Randal Macnair. File photo

Water quality province’s responsibility: Wildsight

Wildsight responds to a letter from U.S. officials criticizing Canadian inaction on water pollution

An Elk Valley conservationist has put the onus back onto the B.C. Government to enforce regulations and ensure water quality is maintained on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.

It comes after two U.S. representatives on the International Joint Commission (IJC) went public with their concerns about Canadian governments’ failure to address the ongoing flow of mining contaminants from Elk Valley coal mines into transboundary waters.

In a letter to the Department of State, IJC U.S. Section Chair Lana Pollack and U.S. Commissioner Rich Moy said increasing levels of selenium in the Elk River-Lake Koocanusa-Kootenai River watersheds were a liability to both countries and could be a violation of the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty.

As well as making their letter public, the U.S. Commissioners also released an IJC report on the human health impacts of selenium in aquatic systems, which they claimed their Canadian colleagues were unwilling to endorse.

“To do that is unusual and certainly expresses their level of frustration, probably with Canada and British Columbia as the regulator of water quality in this case for the province of B.C. in Canada,” said Wildsight Elk Valley Conservation Coordinator Randal Macnair.

The situation was foreseen by the B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer, who in 2016 conducted an assessment of compliance and enforcement of the mining sector.

“She basically said this is coming and it’s happening, and she was very critical of the province at that time, two and a half years ago,” said Macnair.

“It’s not as if there weren’t warnings for the regulator.”

The IJC letter brings to light recent exceedances at the Koocanusa reservoir as well as data from Teck, which shows selenium levels are now 70 times higher in the Elk and Fording Rivers as compared to the Flathead.

Macnair said selenium levels continued to rise, despite “tremendous” investment by the mining company.

Teck recently announced it expects to invest in the range of $850 to $900 million over the next five years on construction of water treatment facilities as part of implementing the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan.

However, there are currently no active water treatment plants in operation at Teck mines in the Elk Valley.

The company is trialing other, more passive technologies and plans to reopen the controversial West Line Creek Active Water Treatment facility later this year.

Located at Line Creek Operations near Elkford, the plant has encountered a series of challenges, including a fish kill in 2014, which resulted in environmental charges against Teck.

A new facility at Fording River has also experienced delays and won’t be operational until 2020, one year later than planned.

Macnair said it was incumbent upon the provincial and federal governments to enforce permits and targets set in Elk Valley Water Quality Plan.

“The province of B.C. and the federal government, it’s their responsibility to ensure the health, and safety of citizens and the environment,” he said.

“At this point in time, I think they really need to step it up and it’s ironic that the Americans are ringing this bell because the B.C. Government should be front and centre.”

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

 

The U.S. IJC Commissioners’ letter to the Department of State.

Just Posted

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

Conservation Officers seek public assistance

A mule deer buck was poached within Elkford town limits

Two new COVID-19 cases reported in Interior Health

The total number of Interior Health cases since the beginning of the pandemic is now at 522

Editorial – Voters think little of political opportunism

John Horgan is playing a very cynical game with his own government’s health message

Annual Elk Valley Pride Festival paints the town rainbow

Festivities began with a spirited Pride Bike Parade and flag raising ceremony

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

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

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Most Read