MOSCOW, August 7 (RIA Novosti) - Hundreds of British Columbia residents can no longer consume water at the place where they live following a billion gallon spill of mining waste that reached rivers and creeks in the Cariboo provincial area, the CBC reports.
The open-pit Mount Polley copper and gold mine recently suffered a breach in a tailings pond, which caused 1.3 billion gallons of slurry to pour out straight into Hazeltine Creek, equaling in size nearly 2,000 Olympic swimming pools.
The mining waste, which is feared to comprise dangerous elements like arsenic, mercury, and sulfur, uprooted trees as it was flowing en masse to the creek. Tailings ponds from mineral mines generally store water, mixed with chemicals and ground-up minerals left over from mining operations.
The number of people currently banned from using water stands at 300, but it may go up, as authorities are trying to determine how far the waste has traveled, alongside the cause of the breach.
Though disastrous, the spill didn’t come as a surprise. The Vancouver Sun reports that the first concerns about the Mount Polley tailings pond date back to 2011, and were then expressed by an environmental consulting firm. The report specially drafted for the British Columbia Ministry of the Environment back then called for an emergency plan for similar water reservoirs, stating the pond should be closely monitored.
Moreover, tailings ponds pose a bit of concern with regard to bird species that land on dangerous water mixes, mistaking these for natural bodies of water. Poisonous substances may further reach ground waters, severely polluting nearby rivers, ecologists state.