B.C. Approves Partial Reopening of Mount Polley Mine Despite Major Unanswered Questions About Tailings Spill

Mount Polley Mine Site, Carol Linnitt

Nearly one year after the catastrophic collapse of the Mount Polley mine tailings pond, which sent an estimated 25 million cubic metres of contaminated mining waste and water into Quesnel Lake, the project is permitted to partially reopen.

The B.C. government approved a permit to temporarily restart the gold and copper mine at half capacity even though the company has no long-term plan to deal with an abundance of water on site. A backlog of water, which overburdened the tailings storage pit, contributed to the accident last August according to an engineering panel that investigated the incident.

Mines Minister Bill Bennett said the province will approve the short-term permit while the mine figures out how to deal with the excess water.

Our choice was: Do we wait for them for a year to do absolutely everything that shows they have a long-term plan, or let them operate for a few months and get people working again and allow the company to earn some revenue, given there’s no negative impact to the environment?” Bennett said.

Canadian Government Called on to Federally Regulate Fracking

The Council of Canadians called on the federal government Tuesday to implement regulation of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Canada. The process, widely used for unconventional oil and gas recovery in western Canada, is linked to numerous human and environmental health threats and currently faces bans or moratoria in Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador

The next Oka in Canadian history is going to be in B.C. and it’s going to be about energy,” indigenous lawyer Caleb Behn said during a press conference in Ottawa addressing the fracking boom in northern British Columbia and other parts of western Canada. 

I guarantee it. The writing is on the wall. It is just a question of when in my view. That is why the regulators need to step up.”

What We May Never Know About Vancouver’s English Bay Oil Spill

Late Saturday afternoon, Transport Canada officially cleared the Marathassa to leave Canadian waters. As it slowly moves out of the Salish Sea, the bulk carrier leaves angry mayors, a combative coast guard, a distrustful public and many, many questions in its wake.

Even U.S. authorities are anxiously looking north wondering if Canada knows anything about marine oil spill response. 

What we know about this spill is important, but there’s a lot more we don’t know, and might never know, about what happened in English Bay.

Companies Illegally Dumped Toxic Fracking Chemicals in Dawson Creek Water Treatment Systems At Least Twice, Officials Report

fracking in BC, Dawson Creek

Although city officials from Dawson’s Creek won’t disclose the names of the companies involved, they are confirming that fracking waste has been illegally dumped into the city’s water treatment system on at least two occasions.

Jim Chute, administrative officer for the city, told DeSmog Canada, that illegal dumping has occurred at least three times, but twice the waste was “clearly” related to fracking.

It has actually been on three occasions in the last 18 months where we’ve caught inappropriate materials being dumped,” he said. “One of those was a load of contaminated diesel. It’s not clear to us exactly how that diesel got contaminated so we don’t know if that was frack-related or not.”

The other two were a mix of compounds that were clearly flowback waste from a frack operation.”

Swimmers Warned to Avoid Ottawa River After It Rains Due to Sewage Overflows

Ottawa Riverkeeper #swimdrinkfish

Never swim in the Ottawa River if it has rained during the previous 48 hours, recommends Meredith Brown, the executive director of Ottawa Riverkeeper.

The non-profit group is raising public awareness about raw sewage pouring into the popular recreational river after rainstorms or snow melts. Making matters worse, on the Quebec side of the river, there is a lack of adequate testing for fecal coliform bacteria levels at beaches, Brown said.

The problem is combined sewer overflows — pipes that carry both storm water and untreated sewage. These systems were built in many Canadian cities between 1880 and 1960.

Usually the liquid goes to treatment plants, but, when volumes threaten to swamp plants, the untreated mixture is diverted into the river to prevent flooding and sewer backups.

Some combined sewers rarely overflow, while others overflow every time it rains, “ says a City of Ottawa information sheet.

It is a problem that is gaining increasing attention from those who kayak, swim, sail or paddleboard in the river, Brown said.

New Campaign Spoofs Suncor's "What Yes Can Do" Green PR Blitz

Suncor, SumofUs, what yes can do

A new website launched today by the corporate accountability group asks ordinary Canadians to take a closer look at oilsands major Suncor's latest ad campaign, What Yes Can Do.”

By launching their own version of the ad campaign at, is questioning the disparity between “what yes can do” as Suncor puts it, and “what yes has done” in the Alberta oilsands. points out Suncor's green ad campaign, which emphasizes the corporation's efforts to preserve “…an environment for generations to come,” doesn't square with the company's own lobbying effort to limit protections for the Athabasca River. 

More than five years ago, a panel of experts recommended an end to water withdrawals from the Athabasca River during certain times of the year, when water levels are at their lowest. The cut-off would protect fish hatchlings and other aquatic life from dying off during low river flow.

All companies operating in the Alberta oilsands agreed to the recommended cut-off, but Suncor, along with Syncrude, are lobbying the Alberta government for an exemption

Sierra Club, Wilderness Committee Taking B.C. Fracking Water Case to Supreme Court Next Week

Two B.C. environmental groups are taking the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission to court next week over practices they argue unlawfully permit oil and gas companies to use water.

Sierra Club B.C. and Western Canada Wilderness Committee — in documents filed with the Supreme Court of B.C. — argue the Oil and Gas Commission has been engaged in a “systemic” practice of issuing back-to-back “short-term” water approvals and call for permits issued to Encana to be quashed.

The case will be heard in the Supreme Court of B.C. in Vancouver on March 17 and 18.

Under the Water Act, if you want long-term access to water, you need a water licence,” says Caitlyn Vernon, campaigns director with Sierra Club B.C. “What the Oil and Gas Commission is doing is granting consecutive short-term approvals to oil and gas companies.”

The case centres around water approvals under Section 8 of B.C.’s Water Act, which governs short-term use and diversion of water for up to 24 months.

By requesting and analyzing Section 8 water approvals going back seven years, Sierra Club B.C. and the Wilderness Committee — represented by lawyers from Ecojustice — determined the approvals were being given to the same companies for consecutive terms.

B.C. Government's LNG Energy Awareness Quiz Short on Facts

The B.C. Liberal government released an energy awareness quiz Monday touting the benefits of B.C.'s fracked gas boom while failing to address the implications of gas development on the province's water and greenhouse gas emissions.

The LNG in B.C. Awareness Quiz is already being tagged as a promotional tool used to win public approval and downplay the negative side effects of the B.C. Liberal government's heavy push for liqueified natural gas (LNG). More than a dozen LNG export facilities are proposed for the B.C. coast to export gas to Asian markets. 

Athough directly related to fracking, the quiz makes no mention of the controversial industrial process and the wide range of social and ecological concerns arising in its wake.

The quiz is comprised of the ten following questions and extended answers:

Water Heavily Contaminated from Lac-Mégantic Disaster, Groups Show

Lac-Megantic Chaudière River water contamination

Sediment from the Chaudière River, near the site of the Lac-Mégantic train derailment four months ago, shows high levels of contaminants according to testing done by Greenpeace Quebec and the Société pour vaincre la pollution (SVP). Despite months of cleanup operations sediments collected from the river show higher-than-acceptable levels of several chemicals, including cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Quebec Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet said the department continues to monitor the safety of the water, reports the Montreal Gazette, and will take into consideration the two groups' test results.

In late September Quebec’s environment department lifted a drinking-water ban for several downstream communities who rely on the Chaudière River for water.

Sampling has not stopped, analyses have not stopped, the teams are still on the ground,” Blanchet said in the National Assembly Wednesday. He added “information is still publicly available on the Environment Ministry’s website, such that we know that there is no immediate threat.”

Both Greenpeace Quebec and SVP say pollutant levels in samples taken 4.7km downstream of the lake are 27 times higher than accepted levels.

New Study Shows Mercury Levels On the Rise in Athabasca Area

Mercury levels rising in Northern Alberta tar sands

A study has found evidence of rising mercury levels downstream from Northern Alberta’s oil sands extraction plants.

Researchers collected gull and tern eggs from nests in various locations around Alberta over several years. Eggs collected in the Athabasca Lake area, downstream of oil sands' development and refineries, showed much higher levels of mercury than those collected nearer to Calgary.

The Joint Oil Sands Monitoring (JOSM) Program, a partnership between federal and provincial governments, commissioned the peer-reviewed study, but it has yet to appear on their online portal. The Environmental Science and Technology Journal released the study online this September.

A similar study in 2011 by the same authors also found mercury levels in gulls from the Lake Athabasca area showed a 40% increase from 1977 to 2009.


Subscribe to contamination