United States officials are accusing their Canadian counterparts of sitting on damning new data about toxic chemicals from southern British Columbia coal mines in water shared by both countries.
In a letter to the U.S. State Department, Americans on the International Joint Commission say Canadian members are blocking the release of information on contaminants that are many times above guideline levels. The commission was created in 1909 as a way to discuss water that crosses the U.S.-Canada border.
The B.C. dispute, brewing for decades, burst open in June when the commission’s two Canadian members refused to endorse a report on selenium in the Elk River watershed just north of the border.
Trace amounts of selenium are healthy, but large doses can lead to gastrointestinal disorders, nerve damage, cirrhosis of the liver and even death in humans. In fish, it causes reproductive failure.
The report documents increasing selenium in Canadian water flowing into the transboundary Koocanusa reservoir. All five waterways in the report have selenium levels at the maximum or above B.C.’s drinking water guidelines. Two are four times higher.
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