Penticton and South Okanagan
RDOS monitoring Coalmont spill
Aug 29, 2013 / 12:00 pm
The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is working with environmental and health authorities on both sides of the border after a coal tailings spill at the Coalmont Energy mine, located 20 kilometres west of Princeton.
“As quickly as possible, I’d like to know exactly what happened and why it happened,” said Area ‘H’ Director Brad Hop, a regional representative.
“I’d like to be able to go back to my constituents and confidently tell them what what’s being done. And I’d also like to tell them what’s being done to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
According to Coalmont Energy Corporation, about 30 cubic metres (6,500 gallons) of coal slurry breached an emergency containment pond on Aug. 24, eventually making its way to the Tulameen River.
The following morning, local residents began reporting the river was black and murky.
Dale Kronebusch, Emergency Management Services Supervisor with the RDOS, is working with the provincial Emergency Management Office, provincial Energy and Mines and Environment ministries and the Interior Health Authority (IHA) to determine any risks that could be posed to the public.
“Thus far, we’ve been told the spill is not posing any risks to underground drinking water sources,” Kronebusch said. “The Interior Health Authority is encouraging those who source drinking water directly from the Tulameen River to use bottled water if the water appears discoloured.”
IHA is also recommending people take extra precautions if they intend to swim in the river, and towel off vigorously afterwards.
The provincial Environment ministry and IHA have sampled the water and are awaiting results. Washington State’s Department of Ecology and Okanogan County Department of Emergency Management are also sampling the Similkameen River near Nighthawk, where the Similkameen River crosses into the United States.
Kronebusch said the Regional District will continue to monitor the event until it is certain the spill does not present any ongoing threat to the local community.
“Our responsibility is to the people of the region and their safety,” he said. “We won’t let this settle until we’re sure our local communities are completely safe.”
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