Water pollution issues remain in Elk Valley: Wildsight
Regional environmental watchdog Wildsight says it is right that Teck Resources pays a $1.425 million fine in relation to charges under the Fisheries Act relating to an October 2014 fish mortality incident.
The fine stems from three charges filed against the company when about 74 bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout were found dead after the launch of the West Line Creek Active Water Treatment Facility.
Funds are expected to be used for purposes related to the conservation and protection of fish or fish habitat or the restoration of fish habitat in the East Kootenay, Teck noted in a media release yesterday.
Wildsight also cautioned in an Oct. 6 press release that a larger and longer-term water pollution issues persists from Teck’s Elk Valley coal mines.
“The fish populations in the Elk and Kootenay watersheds are world-renowned. A central principle of good management is that polluters should pay, but this failure points to much larger, longer-term water pollution issues in the Elk Valley and the Kootenay River,” said Robyn Duncan, Wildsight’s Executive Director.
Teck’s Line Creek facility is the first of many planned water treatment facilities designed to remove selenium, which causes birth defects and reproductive failure in fish, amphibians and other aquatic species, from water flowing into the Elk River watershed and then into the Kootenay River.
Beyond the 2014 incident, there are ongoing issues with the treatment plant technology. Selenium-containing waste rock, expected to leach the pollutant for centuries, continues to pile up at Teck’s five Elk Valley coal mines.
“While much effort has gone into tackling the issue of dangerous selenium contamination running off from waste rock dumps at the Elk Valley coal mines, the problem is still far from solved,” Duncan said. “This 2014 failure and other ongoing issues at the Line Creek water treatment plant show that the selenium problem needs much more attention.”
“Wildsight supports the trans-boundary Ktunaxa Nation’s call for a bi-national commission with the U.S. to address selenium and other water quality issues that flow from the Elk Valley into the US. Our rivers deserve the best possible protection and the status quo simply isn’t good enough,” added Duncan.
Lead image: The Elk River near where it flows into Lake Koocanusa. e-KNOW file photo