British Columbia has released its 2018 report on the Crown Contaminated Sites Program (CCSP). The report was released on July 5th, 2018, and details work done over the past two years to investigate and remediate sites that have been contaminated by historic industrial activities.
The program has investigated a total of 87 sites, which includes 19 sites where remediation is complete and 15 sites where investigation and remediation are ongoing. Most of the sites, including mine sites, reviewed by this program were active before modern environmental standards were in place.
Key activities on these sites, as outlined in the report, include:
- Managing acid mine drainage through water treatment;
- Moving, encapsulating, and re-vegetating mine tailings piles that have leached metals into surface and groundwater; and
- Diverting and rechanneling surface water that has eroded or threatened to undermine contaminated sites, among other things.
The report highlights the remediation of the Bralorne-Takla site, which was completed in collaboration with Takla Lake First Nation. The site of a former mercury mine that operated during World War II, the Bralorne-Takla site is located 180 kilometres north of Fort St. James. “The primary contaminants of concern associated with the mine waste were mercury, antimony, arsenic, and cadmium,” states the report. Monitoring at the site found methylmercury in groundwater and surface water in concentrations approaching or exceeding guidance values.
The remediation of the Bralorne-Takla site started in 2005 with an investigative process. From 2009–2012, the process was paused while CCSP developed a relationship with Takla Lake First Nation. From 2012, every field visit made by CCSP included a member of Takla Lake First Nation.
“Takla Lake First Nation has a very clear understanding of their elements and their ecosystems, and we learned a tonne from them about how the site behaves. They really came through clearly on water, the importance of the water, the importance of the fish, and the importance of everything to people,” said Beth Power, ecological risk assessor, Azimuth Consulting Group Partnership.
The partnership between Takla Lake First Nation and CCSP culminated in the completion of site remediation in 2017. Remediation created a landfill with an “engineered cover design that involved a synthetic liner system and then a thick layer of soils, as well, over top,” said Trevor McConkey, senior environmental scientist, SNC-Lavalin Inc. The completion of remediation was celebrated with a traditional potlatch ceremony that marked the beginning of long-term monitoring and maintenance.
“Yes, we really did make history,” said John David French, Hereditary Chief, Takla Lake First Nation. “And I hope we carry out this throughout British Columbia where there’s a lot of other mines like this and clean these places up and make sure it doesn’t get into our water system, because water is life.”
The CCSP program, established in 2003, manages the remediation of high-risk contaminated sites on Crown land in order to protect human health and the environment. The contamination generally dates back to the previous century, when impacts of industrial development were not well managed and before current environmental standards and regulations were in place.
The Environmental Management Act ensures that those that pollute are held responsible under a polluter pay principle, so that the taxpayer does not have to assume these clean-up costs.