Mount Polley dam breach not an environmental disaster: Mines Minister Bill Bennett – by Gordon Hoekstra (Vancouver Sun – August 12, 2014)

But First Nations, residents and environmentalists have ongoing concerns

B.C. Mines Minister Bill Bennett says the Mount Polley tailings dam collapse is not an environmental disaster, equating it to the “thousands” of avalanches that happen annually in B.C. Bennett, pointing to initial positive water readings, asserted his contention will be proven in the next several weeks.

Central B.C. First Nations, some area residents and Williams Lake mayor Kerry Cook have described the collapse of the dam as an “environmental disaster.”

The Aug. 4 collapse of a 300-metre section of the gravel and earth dam spewed 10 million cubic metres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of finely ground up rock containing potentially toxic metals into Hazeltine Creek, Polley Lake and Quesnel Lake.

While the water readings in Quesnel Lake and Quesnel River have been positive, some residents, First Nations and environmentalists have raised concerns over the long-term effects of the sludge that poured into Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake. It will also take longer to determine the environmental effects of the spill, including on salmon, they say.

Bennett acknowledged the dam collapse may be a mining industry, a geotechnical and a political disaster. But he said that has to be separated from the environmental effects.

“Get up in a helicopter and go and look at the avalanches that happen in this province — there are probably 10,000 or 15,000 avalanches that happen every single year. Get up in a helicopter and go and look at what happened last spring with the events in the Rockies with water coming down and doing exactly what happened in Hazeltine Creek. The difference is that snow melts, (but) you are left with exactly the same (result) — it looks exactly the same as what happened in Hazeltine Creek,” said Bennett.

“It’s a mess. It’s a total mess, there’s no question about that … What’s going to happen here, is we are going to be left with this opportunity to learn from this huge, profound mistake that’s been made here,” he said.

Bennett made his comments to The Vancouver Sun following the release of water-test results Saturday.

It was the third set of results that showed water met B.C. and Canadian water guidelines for metals such as arsenic, copper, mercury and selenium.

An E. coli test result (that passed guidelines) was also released Saturday for the mouth of Hazeltine Creek, the sample closest to where the water and tailings spilled into Quesnel Lake. The results for metals testing on the Hazeltine Creek water sample were not available by Monday.

For the rest of this article, click here: