BC Canada: Coal Mines Poisoning Elk River


B. McPherson
These titans move tonnes of coal for shipment to Asia.

 
Open pit coal mines in the Elk River Valley of BC are slowly poisoning the river. Excessive amounts of selenium, nitrate and sulphate are leaching into the formerly pristine waters, poisoning the fauna. Teck Resources operates five open pit coal mines in the area. They admit they are having some difficulties with leachate and are working to improve the situation. In the meantime, these environmental toxins are accumulating in the river and in the bodies of animals there. Teck’s plan to reduce these pollutants will still have these unwanted chemicals exceed provincial water quality standards.

An uptick in the frequency of spinal and eye deformities of the cutthroat trout has been observed by scientists. A study conducted by scientists at the University of Montana released troubling figures.

“Dr. Hauer said the Elk River data is “pretty alarming,” because it points to a chronic pollution problem caused directly by coal mines. “What we found was … selenium levels routinely 10-time-plus what we were observing in the Flathead. … Nitrate is 1,000 to 5,000 times higher; sulphate is a 100-fold increase,” he said.”  Sierra Club

The river researchers were investigating the Elk River in order to find out the effects of open pit mining on a pristine water body. Proposals for coal mining on the Flathead River in Montana are pending. The Flathead is known for its beauty, fishing and recreational opportunities.

Health Effects
·         Selenium – in humans chronic exposure may result in endocrine disruption, increases in cancer, liver and digestive problems, nerve damage.
·         Sulphate – in humans high levels in drinking water may cause diarrhea
·         Nitrate – high levels can cause digestive problems and an increased risk of cancers. In infants, blue baby syndrome(methimoglobinemia)

It is one day after the UN mandated Water Day and today we are tasked with stopping for an hour and think about our environment. Let’s all try to think every day about what effect our choices have.

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