(Kamloops, B.C.) Declining water quality in Peterson Creek, a tributary of the South Thompson River, due to contamination from waste rock at the closed Ajax mine has prompted the Kamloops Area Preservation Association (KAPA) to ask the Government of British Columbia for increased monitoring of effluent from the mine.
Water samples of the mine effluent have exceeded the British Columbia Water Quality Guidelines for arsenic, selenium, uranium, molybdenum, copper, sulphate, and nitrate, according to data filed with the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
A report prepared by hydrogeologist Dr. Kevin Morin found that current permit requirements for monitoring are “woefully inadequate” and “do not adequately protect Peterson Creek and downstream waters” from mine site contamination. Dr. Morin also concluded that “peak concentrations [of contaminants] have been generally increasing and thus worsening since 2013.”
In a legal letter sent to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, KAPA is asking that measurements of creek flows and chemistry be changed from the current biannual requirement to monthly measurements, and that at least 20 surrounding monitor wells also be sampled monthly, as recommended in Dr. Morin’s report.
KAPA’s request is supported by MiningWatch Canada, the BC Mining Law Reform Network, Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment Society, the Kamloops Naturalist Club, the Sagebrush Neighbourhood Association, the Aberdeen Neighbourhood Association, and Kamloops Moms for Clean Air.
“There are over fifty million tonnes of water-contaminating waste rock and overburden that have been left behind by past mine operators as close as 60 metres from Peterson Creek. We should all be concerned about this increasing pollution, but especially people directly using water from the creek and its aquifer,” says KAPA spokesperson, Paula Pick.
“The toxic elements unleashed from mine sites have been shown to be a threat to human health,” warns Dr. Jill Calder, of Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment Society. “As physicians, we treat disease but we must do more to prevent disease by ensuring that harmful substances don’t enter the environment in the first place.”
Ugo Lapointe of MiningWatch Canada and cofounder of the BC Mining Law Reform Network, adds, “This is clearly another example of why B.C. should strengthen its mining laws and oversight to ensure mine waste dumps do not put communities and watersheds at risk, and make sure mining companies have to pay to clean up their mess. Right now, they don’t.”
Carman-Anne Schulz, Chair of the Sagebrush Neighbourhood Association, says, “We have been working hard for ten years removing garbage and invasive weeds from Peterson Creek Park to make it attractive for people to enjoy. It is shocking to learn that the creek is being polluted by the Ajax mine.”
Kamloops Naturalist Club President Dr. Nancy Flood, sums up, “Some of these metals, such as copper, selenium, and arsenic, are known to have adverse impacts on aquatic organisms. Wildlife drinking contaminated water from the creek is also a concern. Additional monitoring is absolutely required to understand the extent of the impact.”
- Paula Pick, KAPA, [email protected], (250) 828-0544
- Dr. Kevin Morin, Minesite Drainage Assessment Group, [email protected], cell (604) 502-0700
- Ugo Lapointe, Mining Watch Canada and the BC Mining Law Reform Network, [email protected], cell (514) 708-0134
- Dr. Jill Calder, [email protected], Kamloops Physicians for a Health Environment Society, cell (250) 371-3091