Penticton and South Okanagan
Tulameen River, black as coal
Aug 28, 2013 / 11:30 am
UPDATE 11:30 A.M.
Interior Health wishes to advise areas residents that there is little or no impact to drinking water sources in the Coalmont and Tulameen areas as a result of the recent tailings spill breach from the Basin Coal Mine.
There are no regulated water systems in the Coalmont or Tulameen area that draw from surface water. All the water systems draw from well water and well water is unaffected by this spill. Information obtained from the Ministry of Environment water license database indicates that there are no surface water intakes until two to three kilometres upstream of Princeton.
Coalmont residents noticed on the weekend that something was wrong with the nearby Tulameen River.
Water in the river that runs through this pristine, old community near Princeton had turned dark and murky.
"I was quad riding at White Sands beach on Sunday, when I noticed it looked very dark, and then Monday I drove to Tulameen, and saw the river was black all along where the KVR trail goes along it," said Chris Goodfellow. "So I called the RDOS director for the area and he said the mine had called in a spill."
According to Keith Meldrum, the spokesman for Coalmont Energy Corp., which operates the Basin Coal Mine above Coalmont, that is exactly what happened.
Late Saturday afternoon, a small tailings spill of approximately 6,500 gallons, breached an emergency containment pond, making its way to Collin's Gulch and ultimately to the river.
"The spill was the result of emergency repairs to the coal processing plant thus requiring parts of the plant to be evacuated of water," he said. "Under normal operations, all water used in the coal mine plant is fully self-contained, with no water leaving the plant site, as it is all recycled and re-used in the plant processing operations.
As soon as mine staff was aware of the spill, the emergency response plan was activated, mitigation efforts were initiated and the Ministry of Energy and Mines and Ministry of Environment were contacted and advised of the incident."
At this point, Meldrum said, they don't believe there will be negative environmental effects, because the tailings material, water used to wash the coal, is mostly clay soils and other materials found in clay soils. A small percentage is carbon and that is what caused the darkness in the water.
Meldrum said, the company, which is three months into its operations, is now monitoring the situation, testing the water and continuing to work closely with Interior Health and the ministries.
"This is clearly an unfortunate event, Coalmont Energy makes environmental stewardship a key part of our plan," he said. "So this is devastating."
Residents of the scenic area, with a rich history of coal mining and a historic hotel and other old buildings lining its main street, agree.
"I think it's fine for these companies to come in and mine our area's resources, but they should operate in a manner that does not put our water quality and air quality, our pristine valley, in danger," said Goodfellow.
"For me, it's all about the fish and the habitat and the environment," said Gino Del-Ciotto of Princeton. "It's a beautiful place, and you don't want to see this."
For many longtime residents, this is the first time something of this magnitude has happened.
"I have lived here 20 years, and never seen anything like this," said Anne Jones. "It worries all of us. I have friends who scooped water out of the river and it looked like glue."
*Castanet will check on the clean-up operations in the following days.
Read more Penticton / S. Okanagan News
City of Penticton
Penticton Discussion Forum
Penticton & Wine Country Chamber
Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen
District of Summerland
Summerland Chamber & Tourism
Town of Oliver
Town of Osoyoos
Town of Keremeos
School District 67 - Okanagan Skaha
School District 53 - Okanagan Similkameen
Okanagan Regional Library
- Blanket drive underway in Penticton Dec 6
- Apex to open this weekend Dec 6
- RDOS elects chair and vice chair for 2014 Dec 6
- Vehicle ends up in Skaha Lake Dec 5
- Sentencing unfolds free of drama Dec 5
- Penmar Theatre gets stripped clean Dec 5
- Doctors step forward for $100,000 Dec 5