The following press release was issued by Teck Coal Limited on June 11. Teck operates five steelmaking coal mines in the Elk Valley of British Columbia, which employ over 4,000 people. See below for a statement by Living Lakes Canada Executive Director Kat Hartwig on the company’s decision to publicize its reports on water quality and aquatic health monitoring in the Elk River watershed. The decision re-affirms the need to have open, accessible data, as per the efforts of the Columbia Basin Water Data Hub dialogue, and industry plays a key role in this.
Sparwood, B.C. — Teck is making available the data and results of ongoing water quality research and monitoring undertaken as part of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan to broadly share the knowledge and information gained through this work.
The company reports in a June 11 press release it spends about $15 – $18 million a year on water quality and aquatic health studies and monitoring. Making this information more broadly available will help advance community knowledge and understanding and accelerate the pace of scientific progress and innovation in this area.
The reports were prepared by professional scientists and represent the knowledge developed since 2014 when the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan was approved.
“Overall, the report findings confirm that the targets for selenium and other substances established in the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan are appropriate and protective of aquatic life. They also indicate that while concentrations of selenium and other substances are generally trending as expected, they are not affecting fish populations,” Teck stated.
“Effects on the percentage of some types of benthic invertebrates (certain types of mayflies) have been observed in specific downstream areas and further study work is being undertaken to determine the cause.”
The company said it is focused on continued monitoring and research, and taking the necessary steps to implement the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan and protect aquatic health across the watershed.
“Water quality is very important to communities, indigenous groups, and the more than 4,000 Teck employees in the Elk Valley,” said Marcia Smith, Senior Vice President, Sustainability and External Affairs. “A lot of work continues to go into understanding water quality and aquatic health in the Elk River watershed, and we are pleased to share our data. We believe these reports will help people see the efforts underway to better understand and manage water quality in the area.”The reports have been reviewed by the Environmental Monitoring Committee (EMC), a group that provides science-based and Ktunaxa Traditional Knowledge advice and input to Teck and the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy regarding monitoring designs and reports in the Elk Valley.
The committee includes representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Ktunaxa Nation Council, Interior Health Authority, Teck, and an independent scientist.
Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair: “The Ktunaxa Nation Council is very pleased to learn that Teck will be providing public access to water-related environmental monitoring reports on their website. There have been significant impacts to water in Qukin ʔamaʔkis (Elk Valley) due to coal mining, and transparency and a shared understanding of the current situation across Indigenous, provincial, federal and state governments is important. The value and significance of water to the Ktunaxa Nation and in Qukin ʔamaʔkis cannot be understated, and a shared understanding allows for meaningful discussions on next steps to address impacts to water.”
Living Lakes Canada’s Executive Director Kat Hartwig: “We were pleased to learn that Teck is sharing the water quality data that they have publicly. Transparency from all sectors, including industry, is essential for more effective collaboration amongst First Nations and non-First Nations government, academia and community groups in order to address water quality and quantity challenges which are only intensifying with climate change. This good first step will eventually align with the open source Water Data Hub currently being discussed for the Columbia Basin.”
The reports have previously been shared with regulators and the Ktunaxa Nation Council and have been used to inform the implementation of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan. The report findings have also been summarized on an annual basis in the Environmental Monitoring Committee Public Report. Teck is committed to releasing future reports as they are developed, following review, input and advice from the EMC.
Electronic copies of the reports can be found at www.teck.com/elkv