Some Alberta rivers and streams have already been heavily contaminated by coal mining, unreported government data suggests.
The province’s plan for large-scale expansion of the industry is fuelling widespread criticism that includes concerns over selenium pollution. The data shows that same contaminant has been found for years at high levels downstream of three mines and never publicly reported.
The findings raise questions about Alberta Environment, said a former senior official who has seen the data. “There were lots of [selenium] numbers and it was consistently above the water quality guidelines and in many cases way higher,” said Bill Donahue, the department’s one-time executive director of science.
“Why did Alberta Environment sit on these data for easily the last 10 to 15 years?” Donahue left the department in 2018 after the NDP government of the day dissolved the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency, an independent body intended to fill information gaps.
Before resigning, he had become concerned about selenium in the Gregg and McLeod rivers and in Luscar Creek, all in the Rocky Mountain foothills east of Jasper, Alta.
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