Friday, August 8, 2014

Toxic Tailings Pond Spill in BC Contaminates Drinking Water and Threatens Wildlife

On the fourth of August over a billion gallons of toxic effluents from a tailings pond in British Columbia (BC) breached its banks. This spill poisoned local drinking water and threatens wildlife. The toxic river that spilled into local waterways is composed of the remnants of mining operations that include chemicals like arsenic, mercury, and sulfur.

The mining waste was contained in an open-pit at Mount Polley copper and gold mine. Five million cubic meters (1.3 billion gallons) of slurry poured into Polley Lake and Hazeltine Creek. Hazeltine Creek which used to be four feet wide expanded to 150 feet to accommodate the massive volume of toxic sludge. The creek flows into Quesnel River which in turn flows into BC's majestic Fraser River, the longest river in the province.

While details of the extent of the contamination are not yet known, The potential long-term impact could be massive. One of the primary concerns involves the impacts on the regions salmon spawning grounds. Chief Anne Louie from the Williams Lake Indian band told the Vancouver Sun that the spill is a "massive environmental disaster."

Even when they do not breach their banks tailings ponds such as those found at tar sands operations are known to kill hundreds of thousands of birds each year. There is also evidence to suggest that as much as 6.5 million litres leak out each a day from a single pond. These leaks contaminate groundwater and pollute waterways.

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