VANCOUVER — Four groups have written to BC Government officials seeking a determination of whether Long Lake, 30km west of Campbell River on Vancouver Island, is a contaminated site due to elevated arsenic levels in the lake sediments.
Recent studies by the Canadian Water Network (CWN) found arsenic levels in Long Lake sediments to range up to 630 parts per million (ppm), well above local background levels and over thirty times the level that qualifies as a contaminated site under BC’s Contaminated Sites Regulation. These studies also concluded that Quinsam coal mine is the probable source of the contamination.
“This existing contamination is especially concerning given that Quinsam Coal Corporation is applying to expand the mine,” says Leona Adams of the Campbell River Estuary Protection Group. “It is crucial to first determine the full severity and extent of contamination already created by the mine, before a decision is made on whether to expand it.”
“Designating Long Lake as a contaminated site under BC law would enable the full suite of tools to remedy the problem,” says Keith Ferguson, a staff lawyer with Ecojustice. “And that should start with ensuring it doesn’t get any worse.”
Studies by the CWN and by the University of Aberdeen in Scotland also found that the arsenic in Long Lake sediments appears to be both toxic and bioaccessible, meaning it can kill aquatic organisms and can be taken up by them, thus getting into the food chain. And over time the arsenic can be released into the water column, potentially affecting the aquatic ecosystem downstream.
“This river system has been producing Salmon for over 10,000 years,” said Stan Goodrich of the Greenways Land Trust. “We know we can destroy it. We urge the BC government to instead protect it.”
Ecojustice wrote to the BC Director of Waste Management on behalf of the Campbell River Environmental Committee, the Campbell River Estuary Protection Group, the Haig-Brown Institute, and the Greenways Land Trust.