Writer: Get history right on breach: Imperial sought safe discharge in 2009

Coquitlam, B.C. – Dear Editor: Much has been written about the Mount Polley tailings pond breach in the past few weeks. However, I think it is important for those who write about the breach to make sure they get the history correct.

For example, in an August 5th McLean’s Magazine article entitled “Warnings about BC tailings pond ‘ignored'” it was suggested that the community and local First Nations raised alarms about the stability of the dam but were ignored.

Yet, in an October 13th 2011 article in the Williams Lake Tribune entitled “Mine discharge application raises concern,” it was reported that Imperial

Minerals had applied to safely discharge treated mine water from the tailings pond in November of 2009; treated water that would not include man-made chemicals, only elements that occur naturally in the Quesnel Lake watershed. The Tribune article goes on to note that Imperial Minerals held six public meetings to demonstrate how safe the water discharge would be, but it was blocked by local First Nations and community members citing “concerns.”

If the original application to discharge treated water had been approved, as recommended by the engineers and scientists, the water level in the tailings pond would have been reduced and the breach may never have happened.

Moreover, it is very clear now from water testing that the water released from the pond was at or close to safe human drinking standards.

These are important facts to keep in mind and they show how important it is to get the history correct.

I don’t think we can point a finger at any one party in this unfortunate incident, but hopefully we have all learned to let the scientists and engineers do their jobs and make the best possible and most scientifically informed recommendations and decisions that safeguard us all.

Michael Taylor

Coquitlam, B.C.