Canada mine waste prompts calls for better water protection (Associated Press – July 22, 2019)

KALISPELL, Mont. — Towns, tribes and politicians in U.S. states bordering British Columbia are seeking better oversight and stricter regulations to protect them from hazardous pollution that flow downstream from coal mines in the Canadian province.

Leaders in Libby, Troy and Eureka, towns along the Kootenai River, wrote in separate letters to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock saying their livelihoods depend on the region’s rivers and lakes. But those waterways that support diverse wildlife and recreational interests are being compromised by contaminants from British Columbia coal mines, they said.

They and tribal leaders in Montana and Idaho want state and federal officials to fund better long-term water quality monitoring and to adopt a strict water quality standard for selenium.

Selenium is a mineral that is toxic at elevated levels. There is no current state regulatory standard for selenium in the northwestern Montana watershed, but concentrations there already exceed the threshold identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“The river and the surrounding public lands form our economic foundation,” wrote Troy Mayor Dallas Carr and members of the city council. “We write you today to do all you can to protect the Kootenai River from water pollution from British Columbia’s coal mines in the upper Elk River Valley, a major tributary of the Kootenai.”

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