Update -- Aug. 8
The minister responsible for British Columbia's mines says residents living along waterways affected by a mining-waste spill could catch a lucky break because the waste may not be poisonous.
Bill Bennett says the Mount Polley tailings pond breach in B.C.'s Cariboo region may not be toxic because the mine is not acid generating, which means caustic chemicals are not leached out of the rocks and into the water.
Initial test results show water in the surrounding area is of drinking quality, but a water-use ban is still in effect because the nearby Polley Lake has not yet been tested.
David Lacroix of the town of Likely, which is in the spill area, says the findings have made him optimistic, but he wonders why more was not done to prevent the accident.
The tailings pond of the Mount Polley mine was breached on Monday, sending 58-hundred Olympic swimming pools worth of waste water and potentially toxic silt into nearby waterways.
Residents were warned not to bathe in or drink the water because authorities were concerned heavy metals from the mine, owned by Imperial Metals, could be poisonous.
The BC government says water testing results following a massive mine tailings spill are within guidelines for drinking water and aquatic life.
The samples were collected Monday, after the tailings dam at Imperial Metals' Mount Polley gold and copper mine burst open, releasing water and silt into adjacent lakes, rivers and creeks.
A memo posted to the provincial government's website says the tests looked at pH, suspended heavy metal solids, dissolved solids and other properties.
The memo says the results found nothing that exceeded BC or Health Canada drinking water guidelines.
The memo says aquatic life and fish aren't expected to be affected, though it says fish tissue samples still must be collected.
Residents in the area have been under a total water ban since Monday.