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Arsenic Near Quinsam Mine Causing Concern

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Environmental groups, concerned about arsenic levels in the sediment of Long Lake, have asked British Columbia officials to conduct a full environmental review of the Quinsam Mine to determine whether it qualifies as a contaminated site.

The Campbell River Environmental Committee, the Campbell River Estuary Protection Group, the Haig-Brown Institute and the Greenways Land Trust have sent a letter requesting the determination to the director of water waste managements via the environmental group Ecojustice, the Vancouver Sunreported on Jan. 20.

They want the provincial government to determine whether Long Lake, 18 miles west of Campbell River on Vancouver Island, should be declared a contaminated site based on high levels of arsenic found in the sediment. The Canadian Water Network has conducted studies and found arsenic levels at 630 parts per million, 30 times the official “contaminated” level.

Ecojustice said in a statement that the studies, which had help from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, also found that the Long Lake sediment arsenic is not only at toxic levels but is also bioaccessible, which means it can be ingested by aquatic organisms and make its way into the food chain. It can also float loose into the water itself and flow downstream, endangering other ecosystems, the group said.

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“This river system has been producing Salmon for over 10,000 years,” said Stan Goodrich of the Greenways Land Trust in the Ecojustice statement. “We know we can destroy it. We urge the B.C. government to instead protect it.”

Amid all this, Quinsam Coal is looking to expand its mine, opening a new site near a 90-degree bend in the Quinsam River, a watchdog group called Coal Watch reported in September 2010. The expanded facility would extract 1.7 million tons of coal between 2011 and 2014.

Quinsam officials have said the mine is not the source of the arsenic and other pollutants, the Vancouver Island Courier-Islanderreported in November.