Mt. Polley's Toxic Slurry, Above and Below Water, Will Poison the Biosphere for Generations to Come

Hazeltine Creek was 2 meters wide before the Mt' Polley disaster

The Mount Polley tailings pond failure will be a 5 billion litre lump of coal in our common environment's stocking for generations to come [if our descendants survive that long]. As Brian Olding, an environmental consultant who authored a report on the Mount Polley Mine in 2011 says, “Water will continue to run through literally tons of this sediment and grass will grow through the sediment. Imagine if a moose eats that grass, and then an aboriginal person comes and shoots that moose. Then we have a food contamination issue on our hands.”

i grieve for the First Nations hunter and his family. i grieve too for the moose and it's moose family. i grieve for my kids and grandkids and yours too. What Brian is lamenting is the same thing Harvey Scott, with the Keepers of the Athabasca, worries about when reflecting on the long-term effects created when on Oct. 31, 2013, 670,000 cubic metres of water and 37,000 cubic metres of sediment poured out of a containment pond at the Obed mine. That much smaller spill devastated two small creeks and sent a murky sediment plume floating down the Athabasca River. Harvey says, " Toxic sediment will continue to wash down the river to the Peace-Athabasca delta and slowly make its way up the food chain. Each time there's a surge or a spring freshet, some of the sediment will flow down that far."

The Obed mine spill is similar to last week's Mount Polley spill in that the bulk of the sediment flowed into the forest and stream banks below the dam. In the long run the biggest problem won't be the drinking water but the sediment that is distributed along the shore lines and on the lake bottoms.

Toxic slurry was deposited far in the forest

The portion of the slurry [slurry contents list here] deposited on dry ground will be dried by the sun and wind making it able to be blown all over the place. We will all breathe it, our kids will breathe it and play in it, our crops will be affected by it and there will be no way to accurately know what effects are taking place much less who to blame them on. The portion that is underwater will be stirred up over and over again by storms and dredging operations. The particles will be ground up by the stirring into smaller and smaller particles that will slowly be taken up in the aquatic food chain downstream and every lifeform will drink and eat it from now on.

Huge kudos go to Vancouver-based geotechnical engineer Jack Caldwell who wrote in his article 'Mt Polley Tailings Failure: Lies versus the Truth',  "I can accept that the water and all it nasty constituents will be diluted by the rivers and lakes into which the water is flowing.  But what of the solids?  They are in the river, on the banks, and now in the lake.  Will it ever be possible to clean this up, or will these tailings have to be allowed to wash by rain into the lake to join the bottom sediments?"

Jack's words are corroborated by Ramsey Hart, Canada programs coordinator with MiningWatch Canada who says, "Certainly most toxicity is associated with sediments. Those aren't going anywhere; they're now distributed through the watershed."

Jack Caldwell has written four articles since the Mount Polley disaster, each short article focuses one or more of the most important issues surrounding the collapse and explains in clear non-technical language what the spin doctors from the corporation and government are trying so hard to obscure. [articles available here, here, here and here]. As Jack says, "Nobody but me is prepared to say why it failed.  I suspect it failed because there was too much water in the dam, the corner gave way, an upstream slide occurred, and the disaster ensued.   They are saying nobody could have anticipated this.  Rubbish.  It was entirely predictable given the facts.  It is just nobody had the courage to speak." Jack has the expertise and the courage to speak. Hopefully today's Tyee article on mine safety that quotes Jack extensively is the forerunner of many to come.

Finally, the Tyee had another interesting article today titled 'Tailings Dams "Have Not Breached," Says Minister... Except When They Have' which in addition to listing all the breaches the guberment dis-information ministers want the press not to focus on, also shows how willfully ignorant Queen Christy's ministers are.

The sad reality is that Bennett, in this case, and the political class generally can say anything they want in the age of truthyness. There's always a semantic bush they can hide behind if/when they get pressure from a lawsuit. In the end they know that the majority of citizens only want to hear 'don't worry, be happy' so they can continue consuming needless crap with the lowest possible guilt level.