Environment Minister Terry Lake issued a ministerial order today to Teck Coal Limited, requiring the company to submit a plan to address the high levels of selenium and other contaminants in the Elk Valley watershed as a result of decades of coal mining activity.
This order covers the Elk Valley watershed, including Fording River and Lake Koocanusa, and establishes a process for Teck to take immediate steps to stabilize and reverse water quality concentrations for selenium, cadmium, nitrate and sulphate.
The order will result in a plan to identify long-term concentration targets including:
- Current contaminant concentrations.
- Current and emerging economically achievable treatment technologies.
- Sustained balance of environmental, economic and social costs and benefits.
- Current and emerging science regarding the fate and effects of contaminants.
The order defines specific environmental objectives and outcomes such as protection of aquatic ecosystems, protection of human health and protection of groundwater. Teck will develop the plan in collaboration with stakeholders, First Nations and various levels of government.
Under Section 89 of the Environmental Management Act, Teck is responsible for preparing and submitting terms of reference for approval to the Minister of Environment within 90 days. Teck must then complete the plan and submit it for the minister's approval within 12 months of the terms of reference being approved.
A technical advisory committee to guide development of the plan is also established by the order. Representatives will be invited to participate from each of the following:
- Provincial government (representatives from each of the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas and the Environmental Assessment Office)
- Government of Canada (represented by Environment Canada)
- United States Government
- Government of the State of Montana
- The Ktunaxa Nation Council
- An independent third-party qualified professional scientist
A draft ministerial order was submitted for a 14-day consultation on March 28 to those with coal mining tenures in the region (Teck, Coal Valley Resources Inc, Crowsnest Pass Coal Mining Ltd., NWP Coal Canada Ltd, and Centermount Coal Ltd) as well as to the Ktunaxa Nation Council. All input and feedback received was taken into account when issuing this final order.
Terry Lake, Minister of Environment -
"This order very clearly articulates my expectations regarding environmental management in the Elk Valley. The Province takes the issue of selenium and other contaminants in our water very seriously and, by way of this order, government is taking action to invoke immediate change in the region's water quality trends so we can ensure the environment, wildlife, and the health of British Columbians is protected."
BC Newsroom - Ministry of Environment:http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/ministries/environment-1
Ministry of Environment