Teck has revealed mining contaminants leaching from its operations in the Elk Valley could be impacting a species of aquatic insect.
However, fish populations are not under threat from current concentrations of selenium and other mining-related substances in local waterways, according to a press release issued by the company Monday evening.
Teck has released the findings of water quality research and monitoring that has been ongoing in the Elk Valley since 2014.
It has also committed to making future reports available on its website.
“Overall, the report findings confirm that the targets for selenium and other substances established in the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan are appropriate and protective of aquatic life,” read the release.
“They also indicate that while concentrations of selenium and other substances are generally trending as expected, they are not affecting fish populations.
“Effects on the percentage of some types of benthic invertebrates (certain types of mayflies) have been observed in specific downstream areas and further study work is being undertaken to determine the cause.”
Teck spends between $15-18 million a year on water quality and aquatic health studies and monitoring, the results of which are shared with regulators and the Ktunaxa Nation Council.
By making this information more broadly available, the company says it hopes to advance community knowledge and understanding, and accelerate the pace of scientific progress and innovation in this area.
“Water quality is very important to communities, indigenous groups, and the more than 4000 Teck employees in the Elk Valley,” said Marcia Smith, Senior Vice President, Sustainability and External Affairs.
“A lot of work continues to go into understanding water quality and aquatic health in the Elk River watershed, and we are pleased to share our data.
“We believe these reports will help people see the efforts underway to better understand and manage water quality in the area.”
The reports were prepared by professional scientists and represent the knowledge developed since 2014 when the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan was approved.
They have been reviewed by the Environmental Monitoring Committee, a group that provides science-based and Ktunaxa Traditional Knowledge advice and input to Teck and the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy regarding monitoring designs and reports in the Elk Valley.
Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair Kathryn Teneese applauded the move to provide public access to water quality reports.
“There have been significant impacts to water in Qukin ʔamaʔkis (Elk Valley) due to coal mining, and transparency and a shared understanding of the current situation across Indigenous, provincial, federal and state governments is important,” she said.
“The value and significance of water to the Ktunaxa Nation and in Qukin ʔamaʔkis cannot be understated, and a shared understanding allows for meaningful discussions on next steps to address impacts to water.”
Living Lakes Canada Executive Director Kat Hartwig also welcomed the announcement.
“Transparency from all sectors, including industry, is essential for more effective collaboration amongst First Nations and non-First Nations government, academia and community groups in order to address water quality and quantity challenges which are only intensifying with climate change,” she said.
“This good first step will eventually align with the open source Water Data Hub currently being discussed for the Columbia Basin.”
Electronic copies of the reports can be found at Teck.com/elkvalley.