British Columbia

Mount Polley mine spill: Drinking-water ban lifted for most of Likely, B.C.

The partial lifting yesterday of the do-not-use water advisory imposed after the Mount Polley Mine breach in B.C.'s Cariboo region now includes most of the village of Likely, B.C., according to the latest release from the province's Ministry of the Environment.

Latest tests in area show water is drinkable and should have no impact on aquatic life

An aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., on Tuesday. The pond, which stores toxic waste from the Mount Polley mine, had its dam break on Monday. Water-drinking bans for various areas are slowly lifting. (The Canadian Press)

The partial lifting yesterday of the do-not-use water advisory imposed after the Mount Polley Mine breach in B.C.'s Cariboo region now includes most of the village of Likely, B.C. according to the latest release from the provincial Ministry of the Environment.

The miine tailings pond breached on Monday, releasing 10 billion litres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of metals-laden fine sand, contaminating lakes, creeks and rivers in the region.

Interior Health has lifted the do-not-use water advisory from the Quesnel River north of where it narrows and is shallow, and it now includes most of the village of Likely, B.C.

The lifting of the ban incorporates an area north of 6236 Cedar Creek Rd. on the Quesnel River and the balance of the Quesnel River system to the Fraser River.

Interior Health said the water may now be consumed as it had been before the ban.

The health authority also said the water is safe for recreational purposes, but advised staying away from the area, given the amount of debris on the waters.

Water use ban still in effect in other areas

The water ban does remain in place for Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek, Cariboo Creek and all parts of Quesnel Lake and points south of 6236 Cedar Creek Rd. in Likely.

It says the water-use ban for the wider area could be reinstated if Polley Lake were to overflow and send a large flow of water into the surrounding waterways.

On Friday, B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak announced the second set of water-quality testing results.

The samples were taken on Aug. 5 at five different locations along the Quesnel River, to determine potential impacts on drinking water quality and aquatic life.

On Friday, Jennifer McGuire, also with the ministry, said there was still no expectation that aquatic life would be impacted by cadmium levels.

McGuire had also said there was concern over zinc levels, which were testing under the acute level, but slightly in excess of the chronic guideline level.

The ministry later issued a correction to the cited zinc levels, saying the numbers for acute and chronic levels had been reversed.

They had also been wrongly converted into milligrams per litre instead of micrograms per litre, said the ministry.

Taking all of that into account, the zinc levels found in the samples tested exceeded neither the acute nor chronic guidelines for aquatic life.

The samples were tested for pH, conductivity, turbidity, total suspended solids, total dissolved solids, hardness, alkalinity, nutrients, general ions, total and dissolved metals, and E.coli.

On mobile? Click here for aerial footage over the spill site from Tuesday, provided by B.C.'s Ministry of Transportation

McGuire also said officials are still awaiting the results of a sample taken from Polley Lake, two live fish sent for tissue sampling and sediment testing.

With files from The Canadian Press