B.C. pumping water mixed with mine tailings

The results of a tailing pond breach at Imperial Metals Corp's gold and copper mine at Mount Polley...

The results of a tailing pond breach at Imperial Metals Corp's gold and copper mine at Mount Polley in central British Columbia. REUTERS/Cariboo Regional District/Handout

Michael Mui, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 6:26 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- The B.C. government is pumping 8,000 gallons of water mixed with mine tailings each minute from the Mount Polley breach into Hazeltine Creek, where it flows downstream into Quesnel Lake.

According to a statement from the B.C. Ministry of Environment, water started pumping from Polley Lake Sunday morning.

"The flow rate was gradually increased to 8,000 gallons per minute," the ministry said. "There are works in place to control and mitigate sedimentation as the water enters Hazeltine Creek and it has been reported that the quality clarity looks good at this time."

There was no word on how long that pumping might last. The ministry said it had to do this -- along with pumping tailings-mixed water into two open pits at the Imperial Metals Ltd. mine -- to reduce the risk of another breach as water builds up at Polley Lake.

"An uncontrolled release of the stored water in Polley Lake could cause additional risks to human health and further delay in possible rescinding of the drinking water advisory currently in place."

Meanwhile, water sample tests on multiple days have shown the quality meets provincial and federal guidelines. The ministry said sediment tests have yet to come back.

So far the ministry has found one dead fish -- a rainbow trout -- collected by researchers at University of Northern B.C., and testing could take more than a month.

Alex Morton, a marine biologist, said the announcement means tailings could further contaminate the rest of the Fraser River system downstream.

"A couple of good water quality tests from the province of B.C., that's nice, but that's insignificant when you look at how much toxic waste has gone into the Fraser River," she said.

"That's why there are deltas at the end of rivers, the sediment that goes out the top eventually comes out the bottom."


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