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On Aug. 4, an approximately 580 acre impoundment failed at a Canadian gold and copper mine near Likely, British Columbia. The breach at Imperial Metal's Mt. Polley mine dumped an estimated 1.3 billion gallons of toxic mine waste into the surrounding environment. On Aug. 5, Landsat 8 acquired an image of the mine showing that grey sludge from the tailings dam has entered Polley Lake, saturated the entire length of Hazeltine Creek and entered Quesnel Lake more than five miles downstream of the failed impoundment. 

BEFORE: Mt. Polley Mine and Quesnel Lake, British Columbia, Canada: A Landsat 8 satellite image acquired July 29 shows the pond intact and Hazeltine Creek barely visible. Source: USGS/Landsat

The spill has prompted drinking water bans throughout the region, since the pond contains a slurry laden with arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium and other toxic metals and compounds.

AFTER. The pond has breached and grey mine waste can be seen entering Quesnel Lake over five miles away. Credit: USGS via SkyTruth

The president of Imperial Metals, Brian Kynoch, claims that the water in the tailings pond is "near drinking water quality" and expressed disbelief that the impoundment could fail so catastrophically, despite the fact that Canadian officials had issued multiple warnings to Imperial Metals for exceeding water quality standards for effluent and exceeding the permitted wastewater levels in the pond.

Local citizens anticipating the arrival of a salmon run now fear the worst for the environment and tourism, especially as they begin to document dead fish in Quesnel Lake. 

Environmental groups across North America will be watching this story closely given the similarities to the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed, the world's most productive wild salmon fishery. Tailings ponds at Pebble mine would cover a surface area 13 times larger than the Mt. Polley impoundment and would have similar earthen dams taller than the Washington Monument.

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Take Action to Protect Bristol Bay and Largest Wild Salmon Fisheries on Earth

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Center for Biological Diversity

A new analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) finds that the State Department’s review of the Keystone XL pipeline woefully underestimates the impacts it would have on some of America’s most endangered species, including whooping cranes, northern swift foxes, piping plovers, pallid sturgeon, American burying beetles and others. The study found that State Department failed to fully consider the impacts that oil spills, power lines, habitat destruction, construction disturbances and expanded tar sands development in Canada will have on at least 12 endangered animals and plants.

“This is yet another black eye in the Keystone XL debacle. The State Department has utterly failed in its duty to fully disclose—or to reduce—the impacts of this pipeline on some of the rarest animals and plants in this country,” said Noah Greenwald, CBD's endangered species director. “If this pipeline is approved it will be a disaster for endangered species and other wildlife.”

Under the Endangered Species Act, the State Department must ensure the Keystone XL pipeline does not jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species; it must disclose and mitigate any harm to endangered species before giving approval. To meet these requirements the State Department produced a biological assessment that purported to analyze impacts to all endangered species, but concluded that only the American burying beetle would be adversely affected by the pipeline.

Based on a careful analysis of other species in the path of the pipeline and their habitat needs, CBD determined that contrary to State’s claim, at least 11 other endangered species will be in danger from the pipeline.

“The State Department has tried to sweep the worst impacts of the Keystone XL under the rug,” said Greenwald. “Its analysis is like a shell game, where spills, power lines and other unavoidable consequences of the pipeline are hidden.” 

Among the endangered wildlife impacts of Keystone XL:

  • Whooping cranes: Toxic tailing ponds in Canada, power line collisions, oil spills
  • Black-footed ferrets: Habitat disturbances in recovery areas
  • Interior least terns: Disturbance of breeding habitat, power line collisions, oil spills
  • Piping plover: Power line collisions, increased exposure to predators, oil spills
  • Greater sage grouse: Oil spills near strutting grounds, construction noise
  • American burying beetle: Loss of vital grass habitat, smashing during construction, oil spills
  • Northern swift fox: construction crushing adults and offspring in dens, lost prairie habitat

The State Department was able to conclude most endangered species won’t be harmed only by narrowing the analysis to the actual footprint of the pipeline. Of particular concern was its failure to analyze the impact of future spills on endangered species, based on the argument that such spills were unlikely to occur—an assertion that runs directly counter to other government documents predicting the pipeline could spill roughly twice a year.

There was also no analysis of impacts from all of the power lines and roads necessary to build and operate the pipeline. Power lines are a particular concern for endangered birds, including the whooping crane, interior least tern and piping plover, because of the risk of collisions and because they provide perching sites for predators.

Finally, the State Department didn’t analyze the impact of expanded tar sands development in Alberta driven by construction of Keystone XL, even though such development is already devastating populations of threatened woodland caribou and other wildlife and promises to be a disaster for global climate—which in turn will drive many other endangered species, including polar bears, toward extinction.

Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL and ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT pages for more related news on this topic.  

———

Environmental Defence

As tens of thousands of people gathered in Washington, D.C. yesterday to urge President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, more evidence emerged that the public isn’t getting the full story of the environmental impacts of tar sands.
 
Media yesterday reported on an internal government memo revealing a Canadian government study on a tar sands tailings pond that found that toxic liquid ponds do leak toxic chemicals into the environment—despite repeated denials of officials.


 
“For years, we’ve been concerned that toxic chemicals are leaking from the massive tailings lakes into the surrounding water. Governments repeatedly denied this,” said Gillian McEachern of Environmental Defence. “Now, federal research shows we were right. Toxic liquid waste from the tar sands is leaking. It makes us wonder what else is being denied?”
 
In 2008, Environmental Defence released the report 11 Million Litres a Day: The Tar Sands’ Leaking Legacy, which tallied industry estimates of how much toxic liquid waste leaks from the tailings ponds. The Alberta government called the report “patently false.” Environment Minister Peter Kent has said, in an interview on Power and Politics, that there is “no scientific evidence of any leakage from any of the tailings ponds into the Athabasca River.”
 
The publication of the memo yesterday came the same day that tens of thousands of people gathered in D.C. to urge President Obama to tackle climate change and reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The Canadian government has responded to the tar sands controversy by claiming it has a plan to deal with the climate impacts of tar sands.
 
Yet Canada has no regulations to reduce carbon pollution from the tar sands. Instead, it has cut clean energy funding and the government's own analysis finds Canada is not on track to meet its climate goals. In contrast, the U.S. has invested $90 billion in clean energy and is on track to meet its climate goals.
 
“The world is pulling back the curtain. Canada can’t keep claiming it’s fixing the problem while making it worse,” said McEachern. “A credible response would be to cap and then reduce carbon pollution from the tar sands, require industry to get rid of the leaking toxic tailings lakes and reduce other impacts. Promises without meaningful action won’t stop the controversy.”

Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL and CLIMATE CHANGE pages for more related news on this topic.

——–

SIGN PETITION TODAY!

 

TckTckTck

Moving oil is a dirty business, and never has that been more clear than this past month. Since March 11, the global oil industry has had 13 spills on three continents. In North and South America alone, they’ve spilled more than a million gallons of oil and toxic chemicals—enough to fill two olympic-sized swimming pools.

How bad was it? Here’s an infographic of all the oil spills, leaks and derailments in the past 30 days.

All spills in order of occurrence:

March 11 – 21: Gwagwalada Town, Nigera

  • A week-long leak of Kilometer 407.5 NNPC (Nigeria National Petroleum Corp) pipeline. No official number of barrels spilled released, however the spill saturated a hectare (10,000 sq metres) of marshy ground near a major water source.

Tuesday, March 19: Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories Canada

  • Enbridge Norman Wells Pipeline leaks 6,290 barrels of crude oil

Monday, March 25: Fort MacKay, Alberta Canada

  • Suncor tar sands tailings pond leaks 2,200 barrels of toxic waste fluid into the Athabasca River

Wednesday, March 27: Parker Prairie, Minnesota U.S.

  • CP Rail train derails and spills 952 barrels of tar sands crude oil

Friday, March 29: Mayflower, Arkansas U.S.

Sunday, March 31: A power plant in Lansing, Michigan U.S.

  • 16 barrels of an oil-based hydraulic fluid spills into the Grand River

Tuesday, April 2: Nembe, Nigeria

  • After suffering a reported theft of 60,000 barrels of oil per day from its Nembe Creek Trunkline pipeline, Shell Nigeria shuts off the pipe for nine days to repair damage

Wednesday, April 3: 350KM southeast of Newfoundland, Canada

  • A drilling platform leaks 0.25 barrels of crude oil

Wednesday, April 4: Chalmette, Louisiana U.S.

  • 0.24 barrels (100 lbs) of hydrogen sulfide and 0.04 barrels (10 lbs of benzene) leak at an Exxon refinery

Monday, April 8: Esmeraldas, Ecuador

  • The OPEC-managed OCP pipeline leaks 5,500 barrels of heavy crude oil, contaminating the Winchele estuary

Tuesday, April 9: 29KM NE of Nuiqsut, Alaska U.S.

  • Human error during maintenance spills 157 barrels of crude oil at a Repsol E&P USA Inc pipeline pump station

Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY page for more related news on this topic.

——-

EcoWatch is a community of experts publishing quality, science-based content on environmental issues, causes, and solutions for a healthier planet and life.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Catherine Falls Commercial / Moment / Getty Images

There's no better way to show your dog that you love them than by keeping them healthy. In addition to exercise, a healthy diet, grooming, and regular checkups at the vet, you can also help support your dog's wellbeing with CBD dog treats. Learn how CBD oils and treats can benefit your four-legged friend and see which brands made our list of the best CBD treats for dogs.

Read More Show Less
Trending

On Aug. 4, an approximately 580 acre impoundment failed at a Canadian gold and copper mine near Likely, British Columbia. The breach at Imperial Metal's Mt. Polley mine dumped an estimated 1.3 billion gallons of toxic mine waste into the surrounding environment. On Aug. 5, Landsat 8 acquired an image of the mine showing that grey sludge from the tailings dam has entered Polley Lake, saturated the entire length of Hazeltine Creek and entered Quesnel Lake more than five miles downstream of the failed impoundment. 

BEFORE: Mt. Polley Mine and Quesnel Lake, British Columbia, Canada: A Landsat 8 satellite image acquired July 29 shows the pond intact and Hazeltine Creek barely visible. Source: USGS/Landsat

The spill has prompted drinking water bans throughout the region, since the pond contains a slurry laden with arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium and other toxic metals and compounds.

AFTER. The pond has breached and grey mine waste can be seen entering Quesnel Lake over five miles away. Credit: USGS via SkyTruth

The president of Imperial Metals, Brian Kynoch, claims that the water in the tailings pond is "near drinking water quality" and expressed disbelief that the impoundment could fail so catastrophically, despite the fact that Canadian officials had issued multiple warnings to Imperial Metals for exceeding water quality standards for effluent and exceeding the permitted wastewater levels in the pond.

Local citizens anticipating the arrival of a salmon run now fear the worst for the environment and tourism, especially as they begin to document dead fish in Quesnel Lake. 

Environmental groups across North America will be watching this story closely given the similarities to the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed, the world's most productive wild salmon fishery. Tailings ponds at Pebble mine would cover a surface area 13 times larger than the Mt. Polley impoundment and would have similar earthen dams taller than the Washington Monument.

You Might Also Like

Take Action to Protect Bristol Bay and Largest Wild Salmon Fisheries on Earth

Another Developer Pulls Investment From Controversial Pebble Mine Project

Salmon vs. Gold at Alaska’s Pebble Mine

 

Trending
Trending

Center for Biological Diversity

A new analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) finds that the State Department’s review of the Keystone XL pipeline woefully underestimates the impacts it would have on some of America’s most endangered species, including whooping cranes, northern swift foxes, piping plovers, pallid sturgeon, American burying beetles and others. The study found that State Department failed to fully consider the impacts that oil spills, power lines, habitat destruction, construction disturbances and expanded tar sands development in Canada will have on at least 12 endangered animals and plants.

“This is yet another black eye in the Keystone XL debacle. The State Department has utterly failed in its duty to fully disclose—or to reduce—the impacts of this pipeline on some of the rarest animals and plants in this country,” said Noah Greenwald, CBD's endangered species director. “If this pipeline is approved it will be a disaster for endangered species and other wildlife.”

Under the Endangered Species Act, the State Department must ensure the Keystone XL pipeline does not jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species; it must disclose and mitigate any harm to endangered species before giving approval. To meet these requirements the State Department produced a biological assessment that purported to analyze impacts to all endangered species, but concluded that only the American burying beetle would be adversely affected by the pipeline.

Based on a careful analysis of other species in the path of the pipeline and their habitat needs, CBD determined that contrary to State’s claim, at least 11 other endangered species will be in danger from the pipeline.

“The State Department has tried to sweep the worst impacts of the Keystone XL under the rug,” said Greenwald. “Its analysis is like a shell game, where spills, power lines and other unavoidable consequences of the pipeline are hidden.” 

Among the endangered wildlife impacts of Keystone XL:

  • Whooping cranes: Toxic tailing ponds in Canada, power line collisions, oil spills
  • Black-footed ferrets: Habitat disturbances in recovery areas
  • Interior least terns: Disturbance of breeding habitat, power line collisions, oil spills
  • Piping plover: Power line collisions, increased exposure to predators, oil spills
  • Greater sage grouse: Oil spills near strutting grounds, construction noise
  • American burying beetle: Loss of vital grass habitat, smashing during construction, oil spills
  • Northern swift fox: construction crushing adults and offspring in dens, lost prairie habitat

The State Department was able to conclude most endangered species won’t be harmed only by narrowing the analysis to the actual footprint of the pipeline. Of particular concern was its failure to analyze the impact of future spills on endangered species, based on the argument that such spills were unlikely to occur—an assertion that runs directly counter to other government documents predicting the pipeline could spill roughly twice a year.

There was also no analysis of impacts from all of the power lines and roads necessary to build and operate the pipeline. Power lines are a particular concern for endangered birds, including the whooping crane, interior least tern and piping plover, because of the risk of collisions and because they provide perching sites for predators.

Finally, the State Department didn’t analyze the impact of expanded tar sands development in Alberta driven by construction of Keystone XL, even though such development is already devastating populations of threatened woodland caribou and other wildlife and promises to be a disaster for global climate—which in turn will drive many other endangered species, including polar bears, toward