August 9, 2014 9:34 pm

Water samples from Polley Lake close to historical levels prior to accident: ministry of environment

WATCH: The engineering company that originally designed the Mount Polley Tailings Pond issued a statement saying Imperial Mines and the province ignored their concerns. Jill Bennett reports.

The Ministry of Environment says the water samples taken from Polley Lake on August 7 in the aftermath of the tailings pond breach earlier this week are close to historical levels seen prior to the accident.

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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.

The ministry says the results mean Imperial Metals will use a discharge pipe to divert the build-up of water in Polley Lake into Hazeltine Creek now.

The water will flow downstream into Quesnel Lake and be tested daily.

Authorities says controlled release of excess water with a discharge pipe will help to stabilize the area and reduce the risk of a breach and further sediments reaching Quesnel Lake.

“We have a lake full of tailings and sediments and debris at the site that is very unstable, and a breach of that, that is not controlled, certainly increases the risk to drinking water and health to residents should that occur,” says Dr. Trevor Corneil with Interior Health. “Controlling the release is an important step in the mitigation of this risk and ensuring that we are able to keep this water safe and clean.”

The DO NOT USE order remains in effect for Quesnel and Polley Lake.

Corneil says because the results are preliminary, they are not ready to lift the advisory.

He says the tests have been carried out by an independent company at the request of Imperial Metals.

“We have looked into the credentials and are happy with the labs that they used,” says Corneil. “We would like a sample from the Ministry of Environment to ensure us and to corroborate the results. The more results we have to tell us that the tailings are clean and healthy to drink, the more reassured I can be when the time comes to lift the order.”

Ministry of Environment water samples taken on August 6 from six locations in Quesnel River and Quesnel Lake have been tested and confirm all samples from these two water sources meet provincial and federal drinking water guidelines.

The first water sample results from Quesnel Lake and Quesnel River came in on Thursday, showing the samples meet drinking water standard. 

On Friday, the ministry rescinded water restrictions north of the Quesnel River. 

This area is described as including and north of 6236  Cedar Creek Road on the Quesnel River and the balance of the Quesnel River system to the Fraser River. This means that water drawn from the Quesnel River, including and North of 6236 Cedar Creek Road on Quesnel River in Likely may be consumed per normal practice, and is now safe for recreational purposes from a health perspective.

Between 100 to 200 people are still affected by the partial water ban. The ministry says public showers and containers with potable water have now arrived in Likely for town residents to use.

There have been no results on the sediment deposited by the tailings pond breach yet.

The ministry is also collecting samples of live fish from the area. Environment Minister Mary Polak says they are encouraging anyone who comes across any fish that may have done as the result of the accident to report it to the ministry.

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