“We are being made aware that the organization of society on the principle of private profit, as well as public destruction, is leading both to the deformation of humanity by unregulated industrialism, and to the exhaustion of natural resources, and that a good deal of our material progress is a progress for which succeeding generations may have to pay dearly.”
― T.S. Eliot
25 days ago the good people of Likely and surrounding communities were awoke to a roar that many still say ” sounded just like Niagara Falls.”Except there aren’t any waterfalls near that size in the area and the roar was the sound of billion of litres of wastewater, and solid tailings obliterating local creeks before flooding into lakes and rivers.
And there, it stills sits with chemical scents so overwhelming they make one feel nauseous, and swirls and worries locals who still refuse to drink the water and I don’t blame them.
With weeks having passed, so much still bothers me about all of it. That this was no accident and should never have happened. ( fantastic blog with many Mt.Polley posts worthy of reading)
That some with positions of public influence are mocking others who call this a disaster. It may not be a disaster to someone who doesn’t live in the community or rely on its natural bounty for sustenance and commercial economic activity, but it’s a disaster on many levels nonetheless. And why nothing is really being done yet, 25 days later other than discuss whether or not perhaps it would be the
cheaper, easier, more convenient, “best” course of action to leave the toxic sludge alone, is incredibly worrisome and why this story must be followed continuously.
The news that the water is fine to drink was enough to slow the panic down, until it was discovered there very well may an interflow between waterways that is allowing a layer of polluted to exist within cooler and warmer layers.. meaning that the sediment did not all disperse as previously thought. And that fact that ongoing water test results are based on samples taken in some cases, weeks earlier, is hardly reassuring.
As initially linked to in an earlier paragraph, there remains a sediment cloud in the lake that moves, and changes water quality,taste and appearance. It may very well be that what is safe in one testing area on one day, changes a week later as the sediment cloud moves – which is why they are testing that now as well.
Toss in the blue sheen witnessed and sampled by Alexandra Morton, thought by ministry officials to be organic in nature as per ‘the poke test’. Tested for two forms of organic compounds, but apparently for nothing else as far as I can see on the initial tests, the sheen was not only found near debris, but also out in the lake and in the Quesnel river.
And of course, you’ll be totally fine to eat the fish as long as you don’t eat the gonads….worrisome because this is still so early in terms of monitoring accumulated levels in fish and other species, which can build up over years. Will salmon and trout spawn successfully in this water? Will the hatchlings survive? What will be the impact as bear, eagles, coyotes and others eat the fish, and it is passed down the food chain?Will humans be able to eat this fish long term? The moose or dear that graze on the foliage and willows that grow along the banks? What about berries or wild foods collected by many First Nations?
The fact is, an incident of this great magnitude hasn’t happened before in Canada, so no one really knows what’s going to happen and in my opinion that is why every effort must be made to mitigate ongoing contamination. In reading through the various memo’s to sample results posted on the governments Mount Polley update site, there are too many “at this time” ” however more monitoring is needed” etc etc.
Despite concerns over drying sediment being carried in the air by wind, there is no air quality assessment done. There is still no talk about the impact on anything other than water and aquatic life.
It’s all quite up in the air and still very much a fluid situation for all purposes. With fall and rain on it’s way and later on the snow of winter, the sediment that shows evidence in photos taken of what appear to be chemical reactions and leaves a heavy chemical smell in the air, is unlikely to moved in time. That raises even more questions as to the impact of heavy rains and melting snow on toxic, heavy metal, chemical laden sediment that surely will be washed into the water system all over again.
And that’s a huge concern. The response to this failure of policy and industry has been a complete and utter failure, slow and lethargic. The only thing that happened quickly was the efforts to get payments reached with some locals at a time when the full impact of the failure was clearly not known – it still isn’t nearly a month later – an unconscionable action worthy of scorn in my world.
This mess needs to be cleaned up, and it needs to be made right.
It’s not enough to makes some conciliatory actions, toss out some cash and pretend it’s ok just because it didn’t happen right along the highway where everyone could have seen it. Because if this had happened in a highly visible area easy to access for the general public you and I both know a full clean-up would have already been well underway for the world to see. That’s sadly, kind of how it works.
The Yuct Ne Senxiymetkwe Camp has released their own initial assessment today and it’s worth the read. They will not let this one rest.
Today marks the start of the long weekend we celebrate Labour Day and instead of thinking about relaxing I’m thinking about the good people of Likely, and the surrounding areas who chose to make this area their home.
They have everything on the line and there is still so much to be seen in this area. Please think about driving up or flying to Williams Lake and renting a vehicle to get to Likely. Stay at the Inn, talk to the people, explore the area and most of all learn. Take your own water. There is so much to see and do and learn in the area.
Learn how a community deals with something so large and so public that it threatens their jobs, their homes and their way of life.
Learn why it’s important for each of us, no matter where we live or what the industry around us, to know how and if our government regulates them.
Take a bit of Likely home with you, because we all are in this together and the community needs help. We can’t leave these people behind, and we must not let this happen again.
“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence . . .”
― Wallace Stegner, The Sound of Mountain Water
13 thoughts on “‘Our posterity will wonder about our ignorance of things so plain.’ ~ Seneca”
Bravo Laila. I have been using the Williams Lake paper to try to keep on top of this.Some of what they have published have trickled down to the MSM-Hoekstra and Hume, but the teacher strike has seemed to deflect public interest. I’ve been trying to post this on earlier articles in the hopes that others will pick it up and share. I wonder what the “panel of experts” will say? I fear their mandate will be rather narrow…Happy? Labour Day Weekend. We see why the movemnet continues to be so support in the face of our Prov. and Federal Governments.
Is any rally/protest in the plans for the Legislature in Victoria? I don’t live anywhere near Likely and I still feel like I have been personally assaulted by this disaster. We need some action on this and we need it now!
One thing is certain, the BC Liberal government will ignore, delay, deny, obfuscate – anything to get out of responsibility. The same could be said for the mining company – both of which have kept a very low profile and said nothing more than they absolutely have to.
It is no wonder people are getting very cynical with the BC Liberal government – they are trying to break the BCTF and anyone else with the strength of character to question the wisdom (folley) of what is happening here in British Columbia – where natural resources and the environment is wasted through greed.
Another good piece Laila – seems everyone else has forgotten the “disaster” – as you so rightly point out.
The problem with all mistakes, errors and omissions is that all you can do – as a rule – is say ‘sorry’ or pay money in compensation. But those are poor palliatives at best and, at worst, they just serve to perpetuate the cycle of mistakes, errors and omissions. “Oh well, we are insured. Pay the folks a couple of million or whatever and that should shut them up!” And even worse: it does! Some poor sod in Likely will be getting a fistful of cash and he will end up saying ‘whoopee!’ and, by doing so, he and everyone who accepts ‘compensation’ is letting the culprits (and there are many of them) off the hook. If the citizens refuse the money, what is the alternative?: “What’s wrong with you? We offered to pay you, didn’t we?” But what of the bears? The fish? The generations to follow?
We simply cannot tolerate this system any longer. It doesn’t work. To really make this broken system work, every corporate mogul would have to lose their personal fortune or go to jail for a long time for such errors as the Exxon Valdes and Lac Magantic and Bhopal and on and on. And, in many cases that would also be unfair.
Bottom line: we need a new system. And we need it fast. .
The regulators failed – as they did in Lac Mégantic. More regulation that is subject to the whims of gov’t. isn’t the answer. The answer is eliminating limited liability for corporations. There was a reason for it at one time – but now it only serves to insulate corporations and corporate officers from the consequences of their actions. Do a thought experiment and imagine how things would change with that one, seemingly small, adjustment.
The mine barons are just as greedy as, Harper’s oil and gas barons. Safety standards are deregulated. So are environmental standards. Environment Ministry, being stripped of funds. Resource barons being permitted, to operate with acute shortages of staff. Cheap foreign resource workers brought over, that don’t understand the language well enough.
This isn’t merely a disaster? This is a catastrophic disaster, as Laila pointed out. As well as about the people, there is the wild Salmon Alexandra Morten has been fighting to save. There is also all of the wildlife to consider. The poisons can leach out for 60 years.
Never would I trust Imperial Metals nor Christy Clark, to do the testing nor monitoring.
The most valuable lesson we have learned? Do not trust Harper, the Campbell/Clark BC Liberals nor, the resource barons. Their greed comes first, Canadian citizens are put dead last.
This little nugget of information given on Gary B.’s blog sure makes one wonder if it was intentional or sheer stupidity on the part of the mining company.
Earthquakes cause liquefaction with sandy soils – a proven fact. Induced vibrations would also do the same to that type of soil and gravel.
Read link below and the comments are very interesting – something not touched on by the MSM or the government.
Certainly this should be investigated further.
This was sent by a friend of mine not unfamiliar with the issues of tailings ponds:
The upstream method is the lowest initial cost and most popular design for a raised tailings embankment in low risk seismic areas. One of the reasons for this is mainly due to the minimal amount of fill material required for initial construction and subsequent raising which normally consists entirely of the coarse fraction of the tailings.
The construction of an upstream designed embankment starts with a pervious (free draining) starter dyke foundation. The tailings are usually discharged from the top of the dam crest creating a beach that becomes the foundation for future embankment raises (Vick 1990). Figure 2 shows a simplistic diagram of the stages of construction of an upstream raised embankment. Where the tailings properties are suitable, natural segregation of coarse material settles closest to the spigot and the fines furthest away (not always the case with thickened tailings discharge). Cyclones can be used to accelerate this particle segregation for certain tailings characteristics to send the slime proportion to the centre of the impoundment and the sand fraction to the beach behind the crest. The conventional method of upstream raises relies on no compaction of the spigotted beach that forms the embankment shell (Martin 1999). Today compaction by earthmoving equipment is common to increase the degree of safety of raised embankments. Generally the settled coarse fraction from the spigots/discharge point is used as the raise material for the embankments. For multiple spigot discharge a series of shallow pits are dug in front of the spigots (once the tailings have dried and consolidated) and tailings placed on the embankment crest, then they are compressed, the tailings lines lifted and reassembled then normal operation commences.
It is not surprising that the upstream method is the most common design to fail causing huge environmental consequences all over the world (ICOLD and UNEP 2001). Davies et al. (2000) note that there are reported to be just over 3500 tailings dams worldwide of which 50% are of the upstream design. It was also noted that the key failure mode of upstream embankments is a static/transient load induced liquefaction flowslide event. This is not surprising considering the low relative density of the tailings and the potential for water mismanagement to generate high saturation of the embankment and subsequently creating liquefaction induced flows of the tailings.
Also, this is a great little presentation that’s easy to understand. http://www.ualberta.ca/~jbb/files/422-2012-Tailings%20Stability.pdf
Excellent piece. Love the Wallace Stegner quote cuz I happen to have finally gotten around to reading his opus magnum, The Angle of Repose, which coincidentally deals much with mining in the late 1800s, which they did as rapaciously as any episode of Deadwood. It’s now a 135-odd years later and here we have Mount Polley, a disaster we’re supposed to have laws to prevent, and a BC Liberal government that cynically omits, obfuscates and manipulates with every ounce of its being, until, I suppose, the disaster never happened at all. This is whopperism taken to its n-th degree—a lie made bigger with each telling, reputedly Christy’s electoral master stroke when it was applied to LNG during the last election (except in LNG’s case the whoppers inflated expectations of prosperity that never will happen).
It takes a real cynic to think government responsibility with regards Mount Polley can be absolved by whopperizing the essential facts of this catastrophe. Maybe it wasn’t a master stroke after all, Christy—out, out! damn spot. You can’t long whopperize what has already happened, with appalling evidence measured in billions of tons all about. If the BC Liberals can whopperize this disaster, we shudder to think what they’re capable of in areas of discretion and trust.
There is a lot of excellent thoughts and considerations in the initial piece and comments above. Indeed this is an unfortunate event that will be life changing, today and tomorrow, for many.
BC — jewel that it is also a land of habitants old, newer, and new. Across that beautiful land there is industry applied by us on the land and has been so for many years. Our mission in the broadest sense is to apply what we know for the benefit of all …this consideration is often lost in mining, timber — extractive and “farming” activities — as pursuit for daily bread and $$ profits are also a part of our daily life.
In this regard there were options — now known to be unused, or policies and tasks that were or were not regularly applied — we can do better.. you all can demand that facilities like this use our own best efforts at monitoring and managing — TRANSPARENTLY. There are instruments from land based and satellite platforms that can monitor embankments and slopes, large area facilities like the tailings dam at Mt. Polley, Huckleberry, HVC, Gibraltar, Endako, Mt. Milligan …..all in your back yard.
Information on these are available : https://www.idscorporation.com/georadar/our-solutions-products/mining and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interferometric_synthetic_aperture_radar …
As applied to a MINE SITE or Tailings facility — this annual monitoring is very affordable, and should be a part of any mine plan or operations management data set. If you would like more information feel free to ask at firstname.lastname@example.org .
We are working to reach out to the Mines, Government, social groups in BC to help inform and create awareness as well as real efforts at getting a handle on what is happening, or is not, happening at operations across the province.
Not quite on subject, but still very important because of what this government is going to shove through (as well as the feds). Environmental concerns, safety – both public and workers. (although imo, companies and government think lives are cheap in the overall picture of things) and if the workmanship and workers are is as bad as it appears and are not trained according to our standards, (tested before they arrive – that would be well spent money, to send a “qualified, ticketed person” overseas to test, imo, (not some bureaucrat and entourage to go and shake hands on it), speak and understand English, just what will happen to these proposed buildings, pipelines, etc. 10, 20 years down the road? it matters not to those running this province, country right now, they’ll be long gone with pockets filled, the workers brought in will be gone, the companies probably exchanged hands somewhere along the line with the next pleading ignorance. It’s obvious from Polley, that money needed to clean up any such disaster is nonexistent from companies or will not cover anywhere near cleanup costs. It also appears that rules and laws were more than likely not followed.
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