Mount Polley spill shows increase in temperature, sediment levels: UNBC report
Researchers say data provides context, but doesn't predict long term impact of tailings pond spill
A study on the impacts of a tailings pond spill at the Mount Polley mine last summer shows a number of changes to the Quesnel Lake ecosystem, but researchers say it's still too early to determine the long term impacts on fish and drinking water.
The report, authored by five researchers at the University of Northern British Columbia, documented the findings of samples taken in the two months immediately following the spill, between Aug 4 and Oct 4, 2014.
It found the levels of the lake rose 7.7 centimetres in that time, and the temperature at the bottom of the lake increased from 1 to 2.5 degrees Celsius.
It also found higher levels of sediment — associated with an increase in turbidity in the lake.
"That plume that we observed is distributing throughout the lake as a result of the natural swinging or rocking of the lake," Nikolaus Gantner, one of the report's authors, told Daybreak North's Russel Bowers.
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While the report provides the hard data, it doesn't have answers about what the impact of that sediment will be on fish.
"It does provide a bit of context in terms of what happened from our perspective, but in terms of the final answers as to whether I'm going to be able to eat my fish — these are long term questions that aren't immediately answerable at this point," another co-author Sam Albers, who is the manager of Quesnel River Research Centre in Likely, B.C., told Daybreak Kamloops' Shelley Joyce.
"It's going to be the first in a long series of research papers."
To hear the interview with Nikolaus Gantner, listen to the audio labelled: Nikolaus Gantner on Mount Polley report.
To hear the interview with Sam Albers, listen the audio labelled: Sam Albers on Mount Polley report.