Background & Analysis: Total Volume Of Mt Polley TSF Failure Significantly Higher

RevIsed Estimate Puts Toxic Sediments at 60% of Total Spill Volume

(10/2/2014This table presumably now shows corrected  table.  B.C. MOM issued this errata on 9/27  W have not had an opportunity yet to see whether any of the analysis below is affected.  The errata is sonly for mercury 2010-2014)

Mt Polley was already the largest TSF failure in recorded history. (   Canadian press now reports that the release was not 14.8 million M3 but 24.8 million M3. The difference, significantly, is in the revised estimate of highly toxic sediments from an initial estimate of 4.6 million M3 to 14.8 million M3 (and the addition of  0.6 million M3  of construction waste). This represents a 300% initial under reporting/underestimating of sediment release. 

Whether it is significant or just a number remains to be seen but that also means that sediments were 60% of the total release not 29%.   Just intuitively that  seems to suggest the possibility that the pressures on the face of the  112’ man made wall and resulting breach originated in/ or through the sediment layer.

Likely Resuident Lawna Bourassa-Kuester With Sediment Cloudedaden Water From Quesnel Lake24hrs Vancouver

Resident Of Likely With Sediment Clouded Water From Quesnel Lake

Sediments were the major issue raised by Brian Olding Associates in its 2009 review for Imperial and First Nations of the permit application for annual discharge 1.4 million cubic meters of waste water per year. .  The TSF had been doing double duty as a temporary holding pond for mine and drainage waters, a common practice. The Olding Associates report concluded that the risk of contamination of receiving waters was too high without a “polishing pond” for sediments prior to discharge. “Sediment or associated contaminants could enter Hazeltine Creek unless there is an effective sedimentation pond between the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) and Hazeltine Creek. (T)he sedimentation/polishing pond that is mentioned in the TA Report should be a condition of the discharge permit. “

Olding Associates  also found that the data presented in the discharge permit application tended to under assess and/or not accurately measure the risk to receiving waters and habitats of the requested 1.4 million M3 annual discharge.“Throughout the TA Report, predicted chemical concentrations in Hazeltine Creek are based on annual or monthly mean values of effluent discharge to Hazeltine Creek. This approach can mask the potential for short-lived high concentrations of potentially harmful chemicals to exceed water-quality guidelines and potentially be harmful to the aquatic life of Hazeltine Creek. To correct this in a precautionary way, maximum concentrations of chemical parameters such as Sulphate, Selenium, Copper and Cadmium need to be calculated for minimum ( emphasis added) flow rates in Hazeltine Creek”

The B.C. Government was slow to release raw data on sediments. Recently released, the  raw data , a combination of post failure grab  samples and averages from a sampling program of TSF sediments 2010-2014 shows that sediments which are presently laying in the immediate vicinity of the spill have a contaminant profile consistent with the  pre breach average profile of sediments within the TSF. Post failure grab samples reported in this raw data do not show those characteristics at other sample sites but do show some exceedances which could be pre-failure or could have resulted from operations and not be related to the failure.

Before the raw data was released, the provincial government had released this August 15th analysis of sediments and visual inspections.

“Quesnel Lake near mouth of Hazeltine Creek in water 1 and 2.5 m deep. The lake bottom appeared to be covered in tailings and no aquatic plants were visible”.

It is not clear whether the two grab sample columns labled “Outside Tailings Dam Breach” are this observed “dead zone” at Quesnel Lake. These two columns show exceedances  as follows as compared with the “Impoundment Average 2010-2014” and “Outside At the Breach” ( all measurements in ug/g dw)

Sample Sites   Inside AVG   At Breach.

Arsenic     12        12.4         12.32              11.7

Copper   646      723            931                 918

Manganese   757       705           652                 525

Selenium   1.2          1.1           1.04                 1.4

Sulfur  3410     3320        ——–             2750

Vanadium    161        162         180.54            145

No further studies or results on sediment impacts are listed at the provincial government website as completed or in progress.  No footnotes or commentary are offered on the consistent pattern of lower measurements  “At the breach” as compared with the two sample sites.

Unfortunately no geographic coordinates were provided with the raw data which would have facilitated spatial analysis. This Mount Polley Mine Corporation (MPMC) map of sample sites appears at the Ministry of Environment  (MOE) website but does not clearly correlate with the raw data on grab samples  released a few weeks ago  It does,however show the location of these MOPC sediment sampling results reported to MOE ,

“Environment Canada’s data on Imperial Metal’s mine tailings show mercury compounds, a neurotoxin that can cause degenerative disease, ramped up from 435 kilograms in 2012 to 3,114 kg last year – a seven-fold increase in one year.” (No exceedances of mercury are shown in the raw data either in the area immediately next to the breach or in any grab sample sites.)

Vanadium is not regarded as a serious (human) health hazard, is found in most soils and common in foods including olive oil, eggs, apples and soya beans . It does strongly bio accumulate in mussels and crabs causing inhibitions to certain enzymes.( )

Large metallic mineral deposits have natural releases of toxic metals which are established in background water quality studies pre-mining.  Different parts of a deposit can have a very different profile of metals and very varying levels of environmental risk. Mining operations and advanced explorations can create new pathways. Exceedances shown in the raw data need further explanation and analysis to assess what is attributable to the failure beyond what is immediately at the breach.

The day after the failure, Brian Olding, the consultant to Imperial & First Nations on the 2009 re analysis of Imperials permit application to discharge 1.4 million M3 per year said “More water was coming in over the year than they could deal with…They just kept building the walls up higher and higher every year and it got to the point where that was untenable.”

Olding & Associates had also urged a structural reassessment which Imperial did not agree to. “I requested a structural engineering company be involved, and that was nixed. They did not want to deal with that problem at that time.”( op.cit

Today (September9) a non compliance directive on continued unauthorized discharges was issued to Imperial/Mt.Polley

At an inspection on Sep 4 it was discovered that Mont Polley Mining Corporation (MPMC) was discharging effluent into Hazeltine Creek.Order 107461 directed the installation of passive and or active sediment control systems designed to a 1 in 10 year 24 hr rainfall event.

Interflow & Salmon Spawning Impacts

Scientist Carl Walters is keeping a close eye on the “interflow” which has suspended the sediments released in TSF failure in a layer under the top warm layer of water and above the deeper cold waters.

This situation, Walters said, can worsen for the coming sockeye run given three possible conditions:

  1. It is common for a strong west wind to blow through the area for a day or two every few weeks this time of year, and if this happens the warm surface water will be pushed east away from the lake outlet where it can be carried out of the system, and the polluted water may surface and run downstream past Likely.
  2. Samples of the polluted water have shown that it has copper levels that are “close” to levels that can impair the salmon’s directional sense of smell, which the sockeye may need to move up Quesnel Lake and find their primary spawning areas in the Horsefly and Mitchell Rivers. As they move into the lake, they may seek deeper, cooler water and so will encounter the polluted, colder, dense water of the interflow layer cake. “This is especially worrisome for the Mitchell River fish that need to make a left turn about 20 km up the lake into the lake’s north arm and travel 60 km up that arm,” he said.
  3. About 20 km up the lake from the outlet, there is a shallow area called a sill, across which the lake water usually flows westward. That flow concentrates small plankton that feeds young salmon, but the polluted water has spread eastward enough to reach the sill, which could affect both the young fish and its food supply.

“I still don’t think it will be a serious problem, but I just can’t say for sure,” said Walters. “But at this point all we can do is to keep our fingers crossed that the polluted layer will be diluted enough by the time the main body of fish arrives so as not to be a major problem for them.”

October 10,2014 Sediment Plume deep in Quesnel Lake

About lindsaynewlandbowker

Bowker Associates, Science & Research In The Public Interest, is an independent non profit providing self initiated pro bono analysis on key issues with a potential for massive adverse environmental impact . Bowker Associates has been an internationally recognized and cited voice in analysis of the Samarco failure, its consequence, and the possibilties for recovery. In 2017 we partnered with Daveid M. Chambers, a world leader in responsible mining, in our third joint work on the economics of tailings failures. Bowker, L.N.; Chambers, D.M. In the Dark Shadow of the Supercycle Tailings Failure Risk & Public Liability Reach All Time Highs. Environments 2017, 4, 75. A peer reviewed journal published investigation of the cowboy economics of the supercycle and the resulting escalation on the number and magnitude of catastrophic failures. In 2016 we parnered with Dave Chambers in our 2nd joint work together looking at root causes of failures at a conference . Bowker, L.N.; Chambers, D.M. Root Causes of Tailings Management Failures: The Severity of Consequence of Failures Attributed to Overtopping 1915–2015. In Proceedings of the Protections 2016, Fort Collins, CO, USA, 14 June 2016. [Google Scholar] In 2015 Bowker Associates collaborated with geophysicist David M. Chambers to recompile global authoritative accounts of significant TSF failures in recorded history and to analyze these data in the context of global mining economics 1910-2010 ( Risk, Economics and Public Liability of TSF Failures, Bowker/Chambers July 2015) The third annual update of this globally referenced and used compilation was just released at Researchgate. ( In 2014 Bowker Associates commissioned globally respected geophysicist and hydrogeologist Dr. David Chambers to undertake two technical works: (1) development of technical go no go criteria for vetting mine applications tp:// and (2) a case study of Maine's Bald Mountain, an un mined low grade high risk VMS deposit demonstrating the efficacy and accuracy of two risk assessment tools in vetting mine proposals In Maine, Bowker Associates has deeply engaged and been a public voice in the Searsport DCP LPG Tank, The Cianbro proposal for a Private East West Toll Road, JD Irvings rolling pipeline of Bakken crude to its plant in St. John and review of Phase II plans at The Callahan Superfund site in Brooksville, Maine, and Maine's revisitation of mining in statute and regulation... Our only “client”: is always “the pubic interest”. Our model is to focus on only one or two issues at a time so that we have a substantive command of the relevant field as our foundation for ongoing engagement. Our core work is in envirommental risk management, science and technology as well as bringing any available “best practices” models to the fore. The legal and regulatory history/best models are also a major thrust of our work in building and evaluating public policy. Director/Principal Lindsay Newland Bowker, CPCU, ARM is a recognized expert in Environmental Risk Management., Heavy Construction Risk Management and Marine and Transit Risks and has more than 3 decades of engagement in buiding public policy. Appointed by Governor Mario Cuomo to New York State Banking Board (served 1986-1996); President New York Chapter Chartered Property and Casualty Insurers; Environmental Committee, Risk and Insurance Management Society; Director, Convenor/Co-Chair Bermuda Market Briefing "From Captive to Cats" Hamilton Bermuda. Published Articles of Significance The Risk Economics and Public Liability of Tailings Facility Failures, co-authored with David M. Chambers, July 2015 Beyond. Polarization: Superfund Reform in Perspective, Risk & Insurance Managing Risk For Loss Prevention & Cost Control (Jan. 24, 1997). Lead Hazards and Abatement Technologies in Construction: A Risk Management Approach CPCU Journal 1997 Employee Leasing: Liability in Limbo Risk Management June 1 1997 Environmental Audit Privilege and the Public interest Risk & Insurance Managing Risk For Loss Prevention & Cost Control, April 1997 Asbestos:Holes In Abatement Policies Need To Be Plugged, Lloyd’s Environmental Risk International, May 1993 Editor Published Letters Evironmental Risk Management Beware of Facile Policies Like Fetal Protection Business Insurance 1995(?) High Court Review May Increase Sale of Bank Annuities Business Insurances August 8, 1995 Professional Profiles Protecting the Big Apple’s Core Managing Risk For Loss Prevention & Control December 1996 Major Career Highlights First rigorous analysis showing Relationship Between declining ore grades and TSF Failures of increasing consequence ( July 2015) FIrst Documentation that Gentrification Has Same Impacts as Unassisted Displacement from Urban Renewal Sites Direted Court Ordered EIS of FHA Mortgage Scandal Created Nation's First Homeownership Program for Low Income People (SHIP) Created Earliest Geographic Information Systems Using Defense Technology Developed By IBM Designed and Conducted Parallel Census Count to Show Systematic undercount in minority neighborhoods Documented Bias in ISO Territory Rating Plans for Private Passenger Auto Insurance Using ISO's own Rating Techniques Demonstrated Inherent Bias in Mortgage Policies of Banks With Inner City Branches Demonstrated that NY Telephones Plan for Area Code Split To accommodate anticipated cell phone demand was not efficient and would exhaust in 5 years ( which it did) Undertook First Systematic Evaluation of Child Protective Services Caseload Using Multi Variate Analyic Techniques Developed Child Protective Caseload Management and Tracking System (CANTS) and directed implementation in 4 client states including Illinois, Florida and New York Created and Ran Office of Risk Management for NYC DEP the Nations largest Water & Sewer Authority . Designed, Created and Administered Nation's First Owner Controlled Insurance Program (OCIP)for High Risk Tunneling Education Masters NYU Graduate School of Public Administration BSC New School For Social Research Maine Public Schools Deering High School
This entry was posted in Adjacency Impacts, Mt. Polley Sediments, Tailings Storage Facility Failures and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s