UPDATED: Water use ban expanded after tailings pond breach

Vancouver, BC, Canada / News Talk 980 CKNW | Vancouver's News. Vancouver's Talk

Hundreds of people living and camping in a small community southeast of Quesnel are dealing with the aftermath of a tailings pond failure.

A tailings pond at Mount Polley, near the town of Likely, broke early this morning, sending millions of cubic meters of toxic wastewater gushing out.

Up to 200 residents and many other campers are now not allowed to use water for drinking, bathing or washing, and are being told to stay out of lakes and rivers.

Update as of 8pm

A water ban has been expanded after a mine’s tailings pond breached early this morning in the Cariboo.

The Cariboo Regional District’s Al Richmond says the ban now extends almost to Quesnel itself.

“We have expanded the water ban based on the concerns that we have with the affluent from the breach continuing to flow. The solid debris is not threatening the bridge in Quesnel but there are some concerns about the volume that have been going through. The area from Quesnel river right down to where it hits the Fraser at the city of Quesnel is now an area where we are recommending people don’t take the water or use for recreational purposes.”


Environmental Impacts Unknown.

Richmond says they are trying to figure out the environmental impacts of the breach. “The debris itself that would be the trees the roots the stuff you see in the river is currently, they are saying is grounded at the point it hits the river from the creek. What we don’t know is how much sediment has proceeded down the creek hence the expansion of the water ban.”

Al Richmond with the Cariboo Regional District on Hazeltine Creek: “At one point it was four feet wide and now, in spots, it’s 150 feet wide. So there’s been a substantial amount of debris. Of course, when that amount of water hits an area it takes a lot of the natural vegetation and trees along with it.”

Richmond says the flow reached both the Quesnel and Polly Lakes, but the worst of it appears to have stopped before entering that water.

Owner of the Northern Lights Lodge near Quesnel Lake, Skeed Borkowski, says his beautiful lake has been compromised by what he calls an avoidable tailings pond breach.

“The standards of building these berms, I think they are all avoidable. We didn’t have an earthquake, this isn’t an act of god, this is a man made structure that should have been fool proof.”

The President of the Likely Chamber of Commerce says “It’s catastrophic. It’s the nightmare that every single mine, and every little community that has a mine has nightmares about.”

Robyn Hood says he fears the torrent of debris and chemicals mixed into the local water system will have lasting effects.

“Environmental and economical. I mean our community is resource extraction tourism orientated little community in the wilderness, and I don’t know how bad this stuff is that’s gone in to the lake, but it sounds pretty scary. The other thing is, there is a whole pile of debris that got washed into the lake.”

Hood says the Cedar Point campground has also been evacuated.

Marie Hampton is one of the first responders with Likely Fire and Rescue.


Fish Dead, Drinking Water Compromised.

“A lot of people draw their water at the lake. Drinking water is a huge issue for a huge issue for a lot the cabins and people who are out on a long weekend.”

Hampton says many fish are already dead.

The founder of both BC Rivers Day and World Rivers Day says the breach will be damaging to the aquatic eco system.

River conservationist Mark Angelo says it’s a toxic spill and heavy metals have been released into local water ways.

“It’s particularly worrisome to me, knowing that when you talk about this spill eventually finding its way into Quesnel lake, the Quesnel River, and even the Fraser, those systems or so significant in terms of salmon populations.”

Angelo predicts the environmental impacts with be long-lasting.

The Ministry of Environment says it’s working with the regional district, and that “further monitoring and testing of waterways will be required before the full extent of potential environmental impacts can be determined.”

Mining company Imperial Metal has yet to return phone calls.

It has also not tweeted and also has not posted anything on its website.



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  1. This will appear to be nothing when the fracking wells start giving up their toxins to the masses.

    Over the past several decades, U.S. industries have injected more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid deep into the earth, using broad expanses of the nation’s geology as an invisible dumping ground.

    No company would be allowed to pour such dangerous chemicals into the rivers or onto the soil. But until recently, scientists and environmental officials have assumed that deep layers of rock beneath the earth would safely entomb the waste for millennia.
    There are growing signs they were mistaken.

    In 2010, contaminants from such a well bubbled up in a west Los Angeles dog park. Within the past three years, similar fountains of oil and gas drilling waste have appeared in Oklahoma and Louisiana. In South Florida, 20 of the nation’s most stringently regulated disposal wells failed in the early 1990s, releasing partly treated sewage into aquifers that may one day be needed to supply Miami’s drinking water.

      • And they don’t frac in the tar sands The oil sand is open pit mining just like iron ore. They use the water in the process of extracting the oil from the sand. They boil it out basically

    • Sooo what does Fracing ( from fracture.. No K in it ladies and gents) have to do with a tailings pond letting go? And are any of you aware of what Fracing really is or was there an empty spot on the band wagon???

    • I would say whatever engineering firm was contracted ( the lowest bidder of course) to design and do the work should have their feet held to the fire ASAP I work in industry and we have a hard enough time doing business without being careless or taking shortcuts. Yes.. Doing things the right way is costly, but not as costly as this is. Not good at all. Very unfortunate

  2. The important thing to determine is whether this was a world class tailings pond. If so then I guess the environmental assessment standards need to be made much more stringent.

  3. I sure hope the government has frozen all company assets… O that’s right we have the right wing wacko BC lying liberal government bend over taxpayer you’re paying for this one also…

  4. Tough guy, Bill Bennett and Big Rich Coleman will tell us this is no big deal. I don’t think the public will let this one go that easily. Sometimes restoring the environment can take many lifetimes.

  5. This is most unfortunate accident. I think the mining industries need to have insurance fund that all mines pay into for clean up as group to cover the costs of environmental cleanup as part of their ability to operate in BC. Since most companies do not have the financial depth to survive a major accident like this. The industry as a whole should held responsible.

    • This is not an accident, this is pure negligence. The mining company knew the risks as did the government. The community was lobbying for a water treatment facility instead of a tailings pond and the mining company protested as it would have cost them too much money. The risks were very clear, everyone knew if anything were to happen it would go right into the Quesnel River. My aunt predicted it last summer. The government should have forced them to build the water treatment but their main concern is corporate profits. Some employees have anonymously informed the public that there was a minor breach at this pond a few months ago. pure negligence.

  6. It’s to bad they can’t clean the water before they put it in a tailings pond .
    I guess arsceanick and other cemacles would be found in these ponds ,
    Let this be a warning for the peaches and cream doughters . This shit happens , just look at Frank’s Slide in Alberta . the mountian split in two and burried a whole town .
    Take a look .
    i wish I could post photos on this sight .

    • They could have cleaned the water. There was a major push to have the mine build a water treatment facility instead of a tailings pond. They protested as it would have cost them “too much money” and the government didn’t force them. The risks were obvious, predictable, and predicted by many.

  7. If this is the case than sew their asses off . You can expect this all over the province , because this government has no clout when it comes to makeing their buddies do some thing for the invirnment . It’s all about profits and to hell with a clean invernment .
    This could have happened in Williams Lake if it got the go ahead ,And how about this new mine they are hopeing to open soon , Are they going to take half measures when only the safest method should be applied , Why take the chance ?