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Williams Lake Indian Band and Xat’sull First Nation Concerned by Mayor’s Perception of Mt. Polley tailings pond breach

Comparing the Mt. Polley tailings pond breach to a mudslide on the Sea to Sky Highway, and that ‘the stuff that came out of the there was just simply water’, a recent CBC interview by the Mayor of Williams Lake, Walt Cobb has drawn concern.

Councillor Willie Sellars with the Williams Lake Indian Band says you can’t help but put your head back and just start thinking of the actual facts of what happened.

“We all know that the statement that he made is partially true but fairly untrue; there are chemicals in the water, there are potentially harmful substances in the water including copper,” he said.

“It’s alarming that he (Walt Cobb) would make a statement otherwise.”

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Sellars, as well as Williams Lake Indian Band (WLIB) Chief Anne Louie and Xat’sull First Nation, Chief Donna Dixon, says that Cobb’s comments excessively minimize the scope and gravity of the Mt. Polley dam failure.

“This was no mere mudslide – it was a disaster that resulted in the complete evacuation of mine-related water and slurry from a tailings storage facility that was nearly four square kilometers in size,” says WLIB Chief Anne Louie in a joint press release with Xat’sull Chief Donna Dixon.

“Proper diligence must be exercised and appropriate research must be conducted before we can draw any conclusions about the possible long-term effects of the Mount Polley disaster. I would submit that Mayor Cobb’s statements are thoroughly misleading and that they will only serve to foment anger and division within our community, and in this country in general.”

Cobb had made the statements in a CBC radio interview regarding a UBCM resolution which proposed an environmental bill of rights that he adamantly did not support saying it would be another nail in the coffin for rural communities such as Williams Lake which depend on resource development.

Xat’sull Chief Donna Dixon says they are not interested in stifling the economy in the Cariboo or anywhere else.

“We do, however, acknowledge that there are numerous shortcomings in existing environmental legislation, policy, and standards,” Dixon said.

“We need to renovate this framework to create a more viable and sustainable system. I don’t think that this position is unreasonable. It is a goal that we believe should be shared by all British Columbians. We only have a future, economic or otherwise, if we exercise proper stewardship of our lands and our resources.”

Cobb was unavailable for comment.

(Editor’s note: The full CBC interview with Radio West host Rebecca Zandbergen can be found on audioBOOM)

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