Environmental groups are asking Canada’s parliamentary environment watchdog and the federal auditor-general to investigate what they say is Ottawa’s failure to apply laws and prevent serious water pollution from coal mines in British Columbia’s Elk Valley.
The University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre, along with Wildsight, is asking the agencies to investigate the “long-standing failure” to stop the contamination of waterways with unacceptably high levels of selenium, a decades-old problem.
Selenium is a naturally occurring element that washes out of piles of waste rock, but in concentrated levels, it moves through the food chain and can cause deformities in fish and ruin their ability to reproduce.
“This regulatory failure has directly contributed to one of the most serious and permanent environmental disasters in Canadian history,” reads the investigation request, prepared by students from the centre and supervised by Calvin Sandborn, the centre’s legal director.
“Therefore, it is essential that you review the errors made by federal regulators, so that such failures are not made in the future.”