April 8th, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 14
Teck confirms water treatment plant responsible for fish death
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Pass Herald Reporter
Teck confirms that their $100-million water treatment plant, a key piece of the company’s plan to address a selenium pollution problem in the Elk Valley, was responsible for a fish kill last October.
In a statement, Teck says the Line Creek plant, which went into operation in July 2014, was temporarily shut down following the incident.
Teck states a problem was first noticed Oct. 16 when “fish were found deceased in the area of the water-treatment facility.”
A total of 74 deceased fish were found near the West Line Creek Water Treatment Facility, which was built as part of a $600-million, five-year plan to address the pollution threat to westslope cutthroat trout and other aquatic life in the Elk Valley, between October 16 and November 5.
“We accept responsibility for this unfortunate occurrence and are now working to restart the facility and implement measures to prevent a reoccurrence,” said Robin Sheremeta, Vice President of Coal Operations.” Teck is committed to learning from this incident and implementing the measures necessary to maintain water quality and aquatic health in the Elk River watershed.”
A review conducted by Teck into the incident found that substances in the treatment facility’s discharge water including nitrite, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and carbohydrates that are normally managed within the biological treatment process caused the deaths. There were also low oxygen levels in the aquatic environment.
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The harmful substances were released as the result of a problem with the startup of the plant, which caused chemicals that would normally be removed during the process to be released into the environment.
The company says more staffing, improved monitoring and response protocol are being implemented to prevent a reoccurrence. It is anticipated that restart of the facility will begin in mid-2015 with full operation achieved in the fall.
Teck’s Elk Valley Water Quality Plan was recently approved.
The document establishes water quality targets for substances such as selenium, nitrate, sulphate and cadmium, as well as a plan to manage calcite formation.
Teck will implement aquatic monitoring, water quality testing and various water quality management measures in order to achieve the target levels in the plan. This work includes construction of water diversions and water treatment facilities near a number of coal mines including Line Creek Operations, Fording River Operations and Elkview Operations.
Environment Canada has been investigating selenium levels in local watersheds and found that the levels in Fording River are toxic to fish eggs, causing a reduction in reproductive output.
The town of Sparwood recently had to temporarily close one of its drinking-water wells because selenium levels exceeded drinking-water standards.
Selenium is a mineral element found naturally in most soils. It is released in levels dangerous to aquatic life in the Elk Valley by huge piles of waste rock produced by decades of coal mining.
April 8th ~ Vol. 85 No. 14
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