Well sampling finds elevated selenium levels

EXCLUSIVE - Teck Resources forced to provide bottled water to users of four private wells

Teck Resources has been forced to provide bottled drinking water to users of four private wells in the Elk Valley after testing revealed selenium levels above the provincial water guideline.

The Canadian mining giant operates five steelmaking coal mines in the region and was last year fined nearly $1.5 million for polluting a tributary of the Elk River.

Last week, Teck issued a public notice advising surface and shallow groundwater users along the Fording and Elk rivers that concentrations of some mine-related constituents may be elevated.

Initial results showed six of the 92 wells sampled between 2014-17 “slightly exceeded” the provincial water guideline for selenium (0.01mg/L).

According to the B.C. Ministry of Environment, selenium is an essential trace element necessary for cellular function in many organisms, however, excessive amounts may result in toxic effects such as deformities and increased mortality in fish populations.

In a statement issued to The Free Press, Teck revised the number of affected wells down to four private wells and Well #3 at the District of Sparwood.

It said while these wells slightly exceeded the provincial water guideline for selenium, they remained “well below” the Health Canada guideline of 0.05mg/L.

“With respect to the private wells, Teck has provided alternative bottled drinking water,” read the statement.

“One well previously thought to be over guideline has now been confirmed as being below guideline.”

“Teck has been working closely with the District of Sparwood since 2014 to monitor Well #3, which is taken offline during periods when levels exceed guideline.

“Teck is working with the District on a replacement well, which is expected to be completed later this year.”

The mining company is in the process of implementing the Elk River Water Quality Plan, which aims to stabilize and reverse the trend of selenium and other mining-related substances in the watershed.

In October 2014, Environment Canada officers investigating the deaths of 45 fish near one of Teck’s five mines found waste water from a Teck water treatment plant, put in place to deal with selenium pollution, was entering Line Creek.

Last year, Teck pleaded guilty to violating the federal Fisheries Act and was ordered to pay $1.425 million to restore fish habitat in the Elk Valley.

The Elk River Alliance has called on the mining company to make its well sampling program more transparent.

“The current information does not make clear whether selenium in the five wells exceeded the BCWQG (B.C. Water Quality Guidelines) every year between 2014-2017, nor how ‘slight’ the exceedances were,” said a spokeswoman.

“It is also unclear whether the five wells are all located close to Teck operations.

“The Elk River Alliance will be following up with Teck to determine the location of the wells with exceedances, the actual selenium concentrations in the five wells relative to the BCWQG, whether the wells are currently drinking water sources and, if so, what Teck is doing to address the exceedances, however ‘slight’.”

The ERA said selenium in the watershed was a complex issue and challenging to address.

“We expect Teck to continue to make changes to their current mining operations to reduce selenium loadings to the Elk River system and to apply the results of research to the management of the large areas of waste rock from previous mining, which will otherwise continue to leach selenium into the watershed for years to come,” said a spokeswoman.

The ERA has invited residents share their views on water resources via 250-423-3322 or info@elkriveralliance.ca.

In summary:

– Six of 92 wells sampled between 2014-17 were found to exceed the provincial water guideline for selenium (0.01mg/L). Teck has revised the number of affected wells to four private wells and Well #3 in Sparwood.

– Selenium is an essential trace element necessary for cellular function in many organisms, however, excessive amounts may result in toxic effects such deformities and increased mortality in fish populations.

– While the affected wells are above the provincial water guideline for selenium, Teck says they are “well below” the Health Canada guideline of 0.05mg/L.

– Teck has provided bottled drinking water to affected private well users and has been working with the District of Sparwood since 2014 to monitor Well #3, which is taken offline during periods when levels exceed guideline.

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

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Wildsight turns a sour situation into sweet online learning

The group is offering a variety of resources for home learning

Chamber launches localized workforce attraction website

The Work in Fernie website intends on bringing workers to the Elk Valley during the off season

Fernie Heritage Library sparks sweet summer fun

The library hosted their annual Lemonade Social on June 24

Interior Health will not expand Police and Crisis Team

Southeast Division Chief Superintendent Brad Haugli asked IH to expand the program

Elk Valley locals mountain bike for mental health

Strahan Loken leads a summer solstice fundraiser for the Elk Valley Suicide Task Force

VIDEO: Musqueam Chief captures captivating footage of bald eagle catching meal

‘This is why we have chosen to live here since time immemorial,’ Chief Wayne Sparrow’s nephew says

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, advocates say

There are provisions in Canada’s prostitution laws that make workers immune from prosecution, but not from arrest

Liberal party finished 2019 having spent $43 million, raised $42 million

All political parties had until midnight June 30 to submit their financial reports for last year

B.C. teacher loses licence after sexual relationships with two recently-graduated students

The teacher won’t be allowed to apply for a teaching certificate until 2035

White-throated sparrows have changed their tune, B.C. study unveils

Study marks an unprecedented development scientists say has caused them to sit up and take note

Wildcat Days hosts online craft fair

This year’s craft fair was held via the Shop Local Elkford BC Facebook group

Most Read