Water from Quesnel Lake meets drinking water standard, but water ban remains
WATCH ABOVE: The first results are in from Quesnel Lake, four days after the Polley Lake Mine spill. Julia Foy reports.
VANCOUVER – The Ministry of Environment (MOE) says three samples of water taken from Quesnel Lake and Quesnel River show that the water meets drinking water standard.
More samples are needed, but the Jennifer McGuire from the MOE says these early results are “very good news.”
However, the water ban for B.C.’s Cariboo and Quesnel regions remain in place because no water samples have been tested from Polley Lake.
A breach of the tailings pond on Mount Polley Mine on Monday sent five million cubic metres of waste into Hazeltine Creek, Quesnel Lake and Polley Lake.
Residents in the area, along with visitors to waterways near the Mount Polley Mine close to Likely, B.C., are still under a complete water ban. Affecting close to 300 homes, it extends to the entire Quesnel and Cariboo River systems up to the Fraser River, including Quesnel Lake, Cariboo Creek, Hazeltine Creek and Polley Lake.
Dr. Trevor Corneil from Interior Health says the ban remains in place because Polley Lake is difficult to get to and they are concerned about the lake breaking its banks.
Do not swim in, consume or cook with the water until further notice.
WATCH: Aerial views of the Mount Polley Mine tailings pond breach
Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett says Polley Lake is not yet safe for crews to take samples but he is optimistic about the initial results.
“There’s a really good chance we’re going to get lucky here,” says Bennett as the Polley Mine is not acid generating.
He adds that crews are pumping water out of Polley Lake into pits to get rid of the extra water and mitigate some of the risk of the tailings cutting loose and having more water come rushing down the creek again.
The parameters analysed so far include pH, conductivity, turbidity, total suspended solids, total dissolved solids, hardness, alkalinity, total and dissolved metals, and E.coli.
E.coli concentrations were below or just above the guideline at typical concentrations for lakes in B.C. and well below the disinfection and partial treatment guidelines. The MOE says the detected value of E.coli is not likely a result of the tailings discharge.
Contaminant concentrations are well below aquatic life guidelines however fish tissue samples have not yet been collected but is planned for the future.
Generally bio-accumulation of contaminants in fish muscle tissue occurs over a longer exposure time than a few days.
Corneil says they will lift the water ban as soon as they can.
“I’m not an expert on drinking water quality, but it looks like from the reports that the toxic metals are at fairly low concentrations, which is good news, and people deserve some good news,” said Dr. Craig Orr, ecologist with Watershed Watch.
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