July 16, 2024

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Govt experts uncover stunning degrees of coal mine air pollution in Alberta Rockies

4 min read
Govt experts uncover stunning degrees of coal mine air pollution in Alberta Rockies

A former coal mine in the Alberta Rockies is releasing a contaminant harmful to fish at fees a lot more than dozens of situations greater than federal and provincial suggestions, although another periodically disgorges drinking water so iron-weighty it stains area creeks orange, investigation says.

The results, by provincial federal government researchers who had been not created accessible to converse to reporters, elevate inquiries about who is responsible for cleaning up legacy industrial web-sites.

“Our results expose novel proof that coal mining activities in the Crowsnest River watershed have been impacting ecosystems downstream for many years,” claims the paper, released just lately in the journal Environmental Air pollution.

Its a few authors, all used by Alberta Surroundings and Shielded Regions when the study was done, studied the Grassy Mountain and Tent Mountain websites in southwestern Alberta.

Both equally web sites have noticed major, though intermittent, coal mining. Grassy Mountain had surface area and underground activity from 1910 to 1975 and Tent Mountain was floor mined from 1948 to 1983.

Operations at Tent Mountain, now the internet site of a proposed renewable electricity task, piled decades of waste rock adjacent to a retention pond feeding drinking water into the Crowsnest River.

“A community of rill marks obvious down the face of the squander rock pile attest to the very long-phrase motion of floor water down (and through) the waste rock pile and directly into Pond 3A,” the paper claims.

That pond now has concentrations of selenium — an element really toxic to fish, impairing their capability to reproduce — that range from 112 to 185 micrograms per litre.

The governments of Canada, the United States and Alberta say the protected restrict for selenium to guard aquatic everyday living is between a person and two micrograms.

Governing administration scientists publish paper on shockingly superior amounts of coal mine pollution in Alberta Rockies. #coal #abpoli

Pond 3A drains into Crowsnest Creek, which operates via a wetland at the base of Tent Mountain. Substantially of the selenium stays there.

“Selenium bioaccumulates in aquatic habitats and can be poisonous to fish and wildlife at the concentrations noticed,” claims the paper.

Downstream of that wetland, just right before the creek flows into Crowsnest Lake, selenium concentrations had been nevertheless at or higher than upper boundaries, from time to time 4 times the Alberta guideline.

The paper says selenium in the lake is elevated in comparison with unaffected streams in the area.

Grassy Mountain, where a person enterprise hopes to restart coal mining, is developing much less selenium problems mainly because squander rock is far more widely dispersed, states the paper. But in July 2022, the experts mentioned a difficulty in a nearby creek.

“For a transient 48-hour period of time, water top quality in Blairmore Creek altered markedly and the h2o turned a rusty orange color,” the paper claims.

The group tracked the rusty water to an old mine entrance and calculated its iron material at virtually 30 occasions federal guidelines.

“This discharge party was presumably thanks to an not known (natural) hydrologic driver,” suggests the paper. “Periodic orange-drinking water discharge functions have been noted considering the fact that the 1970s.”

The Canadian Push contacted Alberta Ecosystem on Jan. 15 to request an job interview with the authors, two of whom keep on being general public employees.

A spokesman said the experts weren’t out there and questioned for a list of concerns. A list was delivered Friday, but no response was obtained, together with to a concern about why the experts could not speak to their research.

The third creator, now operating in the U.S., claimed he would not speak about his exploration for anxiety of lawful reprisal from the province.

In Alberta, the possessors of a growth allow for a web site are dependable for previous environmental liabilities.

Tent Mountain is currently protected by a allow owned by Evolve Electrical power, which hopes to use Pond 3A for water storage in a pumped hydro venture.

Evolve did not reply to a ask for to remark on how it options to remediate selenium issues.

The earlier allow holder, Montem Sources, did have a program to remediate selenium from its proposed coal mine, but it can be not crystal clear how, or if, the system applies to the recent task.

Grassy Mountain is at this time being explored for coal by Australian-owned Northback Resources, which hopes to reopen the site for mining.

Federal regulation prohibits the discharge of resources “deleterious to fish” into fish-bearing waters. The creeks flowing from each sites are the headwaters of a lot of trout streams, together with endangered native species, which presently face threats from infections this sort of as whirling condition.

“(Ecosystem Canada) is mindful of the historic coal mines at Grassy Mountain and Tent Mountain and has executed many inspections at the Grassy Mountain mine,” explained spokeswoman Nicole Allen in an electronic mail.

“If … enforcement officers obtain evidence of an alleged violation of the air pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act, they will just take suitable motion.”

This report by The Canadian Press was very first printed Jan. 30, 2024.

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