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Preliminary water samples show water up to drinking standards; more tests to be done before ban lift

UNBC researcher Sam Albers tests the water in Quesnel Lake in the aftermath of the Mount Polley mine tailings pond breach.  - Photo courtesy of University of Northern British Columbia
UNBC researcher Sam Albers tests the water in Quesnel Lake in the aftermath of the Mount Polley mine tailings pond breach.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of University of Northern British Columbia

Local residents, politicians and throngs of media were in Likely Thursday to hear first-hand the preliminary results of water testing after the Mount Polley tailings pond dam breach Monday.

According to Interior Health, initial water samples taken on Aug. 4, meet both provincial and Canadian drinking water guidelines.

“Everything we see is very reassuring,” said the medical health officer for Interior Health.

The water samples were described as being taken from the north shore east of Cedar Creek, north shore west of four cabins and at the Likely townsite on Monday, the day more than 10 million cubic metres of tailings pond water entered Polley Lake and Quesnel Lake following a dam breach.

Interior Health said additional sampling is required before a final determination can be made on the current water use restrictions.

As a result the Do Not Consume water restrictions related to the tailings pond breach remain in place.

This affects water drawn from Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek, Quesnel Lake, and the Quesnel River system to the Fraser River.

The public should also continue to refrain from using the waterways for recreational purposes. This includes swimming and fishing.

In addition, given the presence of debris on these waters, seen Thursday floating as far away as the Junction area of Quesnel Lake, recreational users are advised to avoid these areas until all clean-up activities are complete.

Sample collection is ongoing and Interior Health is monitoring regularly to ensure the health safety of residents in the affected areas, and determine when restrictions can be lifted.

“There is a really good chance we’re going to get lucky here,” Mines Minister Bill Bennett said following the announcement of the initial test results, noting the Mount Polley Mine is not acid generating.

Premier Christy Clark promised to work with mine workers, unions and tourism operators to mitigate the economic impact caused by the disaster.

The details of the Ministry of Environment water sampling are available at

http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/eemp/incidents/2014/pdf/2014Aug4_WaterSampleResults_20140807.pdf.

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