The potential repercussions from the August 4th Mt. Polley tailings pond breach will be devastating for salmon according to the Fisheries Manager for the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council.
Ernest Kroeker, Fisheries Manager with the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council, says potential environmental impacts on 4 species of salmon that migrate a long distance out to the ocean after 1st year of life, could affect more than just the local area.
“They spend varying amounts of time out there; some of them spend up to 4 years out in the ocean before they return to spawn.”
“If they are picking up contaminants in Quesnel Lake when they’re growing up and then they leave to go out to the ocean lots of different organisms feed on these fish out in the ocean, we’re talking about marine mammals, we’re talking about other fish species.”
Kroeker adds that the suspended material from the breach and their potential effect on the developing salmon eggs is very concerning.
“It can clog up the pores in the eggs and really have a negative effect on their development.”
The Ministry of Environment who like Kroeker says the long-term effects are yet unknown says further monitoring and testing is necessary.
Kroeker, says potential repercussions on residential fish species that do not leave the watershed of Quesnel Lake or River will depend on one main critical factor.
“All of it really depends on a term we call bio-availability; how mobile those elements that are now in Quesnel Lake are, how accessible they are to living organisms.”
“If they are very accessible and fish species that spend a lot of time living that environment, will certainly be at a much greater risk.”
There are at least 5 residential species of fish in the Quesnel Lake and River he says.
The most recent results for aquatic life had shown exceedances for copper, phosphorous, chromium and also aluminum above acute water quality guidelines.