September 4, 2014 9:31 pm

Residents still drinking bottled water one month after Mount Polley Mine breach

WATCH: On the one month anniversary of the Mount Polley tailings pond breach, John Daly returns to the Cariboo for an update on the disaster.

On the one month anniversary of the massive Mount Polley Mine tailings pond breach, it is being revealed the spill was much larger than previously estimated.

Imperial Metals now estimates the size of the spill from the collapse of its mine tailings dam to be nearly 70 per cent larger than its first estimate.

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The company says the spill contained 10.6 million cubic metres of water and 7.3 million cubic metres of tailings, which is enough to fill nearly 9,800 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Although mine crews are building a dike upstream from the breach to prevent any additional tailings from escaping, there are questions on how quickly the work is progressing.

“We’re still chasing information but we do have the senior officials table going and we’re having our first meeting on Friday,” says Bev Sellars from the Soda Creek Band.

“So we’re hopefully going to change things then when we will be involved. But it’s been frustrating, it’s been a frustrating month. “

For people living on Quesnel Lake, which is where they draw their drinking water, the test results indicating it’s safe to consume do not provide enough assurance for the community.

“We’re drinking bottled water because on the 18th, the first test done after Mount Polley, the water was really clear and on the 20th the plume was already here,” says Quesnel Lake Resident Pohney Whitmer.

And there’s a sudden explosion of aquatic weeds, which have residents concerned.

Whitmer says there are short weeds that are carpeting the bottom of the lake along with other higher weeds that are now in the water.

Not only has the spill impacted the drinking water but it’s also taking a toll on the local economy.

“I’ve ran the park in this town for 15 years and this is the first time we’ve had zero campers on Labour Day weekend,” Chamber of Commerce president Robin Hood says.

For Likely resident and shop owner Dianna St. Onge, she’s found her sales have been down $20,000 in the past three weeks.

Regardless, the residents remain hopeful that both the economy and environment will bounce back.

~ with files from John Daly

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