For decades B.C. failed to address selenium pollution in the Elk Valley. Now no one knows how to stop it.

For decades B.C. failed to address selenium pollution in the Elk Valley. Now no one knows how to stop it.

SOURCE: The Narwhal DATE: December 4, 2018 SNIP: If you follow the crystalline waters of the Fording River up the Elk Valley, past Josephine Falls, you’ll discover a small pocket of genetically pure westslope cutthroat trout prized by fly fishers from around the world. The species is known for sparse, dark freckles that run along the contours of an arched back and the signature orange-pink slits that gouge both sides of its throat. Small teeth line the entirety of its mouth, even under the tongue. The meandering oxbows of the Upper Fording have created the unique conditions for this particular population of westslope cutthroat trout to remain genetically distinct, not having bred or ‘hybridized’ with other nearby populations. Yet these very same gentle waters now threaten to bring an end to this particular lineage of westslope cutthroat trout, first noted in the journals of Lewis and Clark and christened with the scientific name Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi. Selenium pollution, leaching from manmade mountains of waste rock, has inundated the waterways of the Elk Valley, depositing itself in the docile currents of the Fording and Elk Rivers. First, selenium settles in slow moving waters where it is converted into organic compounds by bacteria. It is then taken up by algae which are eaten by bugs which, in turn, are eaten by fish. As the contaminant accumulates in trout it can lead to ghastly facial and spinal deformities, an absence of the plates that overlay and protect the fish’s fleshy gills and — where deformities make survival impossible — death. In 2014 an expert report prepared for Environment Canada warned that selenium...
Roving gangs of “yellow vest” militants set heart of Paris ablaze

Roving gangs of “yellow vest” militants set heart of Paris ablaze

SOURCE: Reuters DATE: December 1, 2018 SNIP: Groups of young men with faces masked, some carrying metal bars and axes, rioted on the streets of central Paris on Saturday, setting a dozen vehicles ablaze and torching buildings, unleashing the city’s worst urban unrest for years. Police said several hundred far-right and far-left extremists had infiltrated a demonstration by some 5,000 calmer “yellow vest” protesters who had gathered in the capital to denounce President Emmanuel Macron’s fuel tax increases. Youths smashed the windows of the flagship Apple Store on the Champs Elysees which opened just a few weeks ago. A boutique on the Rue Rivoli was broken into and looted. Banks were vandalized and scrawled with anti-government graffiti. “We are in a state of insurrection, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Jeanne d’Hauteserre, the mayor of the city’s 8th arrondissement, near the Arc de Triomphe, told BFM TV. On the Rue de la Paix, one of Paris’s most expensive shopping streets, Christmas trees were left smouldering after firemen put out at least three blazes. The jewelry stores and fashion boutiques were locked up, but the Christmas decorations on the street were still sparkling. It is the third week of national unrest by the movement — named after the high-visibility jackets that all motorists in France must carry in their vehicles — and the second consecutive weekend of violent disturbance in...
Trump Administration Says Companies Can ‘Incidentally Harass’ Marine Mammals

Trump Administration Says Companies Can ‘Incidentally Harass’ Marine Mammals

SOURCE: NPR DATE: November 30, 2018 SNIP: The Trump administration has authorized five companies to “incidentally, but not intentionally, harass marine mammals” by using seismic air guns to search for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean. “The ocean is a world of sound. Marine mammals and many other species rely on their hearing to feed, find mates, avoid predators, maintain bonds between mothers and calves – to do, in short, virtually everything they must to survive and reproduce in the wild,” said Michael Jasny, the director of NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project. “In this environment so dependent on sound, seismic blasting is an assault.” Companies want to use the blasts of compressed air to map underwater geology and search for oil and gas reserves. If approved by BOEM, it would happen over a large area off the central and southern East Coast. John Filostrat, a spokesperson for BOEM, said that the bureau “will complete its environmental review per the National Environmental Policy Act and determine whether to approve the permit applications.” He added that this will happen in the “near future.” There’s growing evidence that these sounds may seriously affect animals swimming well outside the immediate danger zone. The sounds could also impact how animals communicate by drowning out their sounds to each other. It’s not just marine mammals impacted – other research suggests that the sounds could harm smaller creatures important to the ecosystem, such as plankton. The American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas trade association, praised the decision. It said in a statement that the surveys must happen so the companies “can make the discoveries...
Seabirds face “agonizing death” as Newfoundland offshore oil spill becomes impossible to clean

Seabirds face “agonizing death” as Newfoundland offshore oil spill becomes impossible to clean

SOURCE: The Energy Mix DATE: November 23, 2018 SNIP: Newfoundland and Labrador has no hope of cleaning up from its worst-ever oil spill, after stormy waters off the east coast broke up at least two ocean oil sheens to the point that 250,000 litres of toxic material can no longer be recovered. The spill “happened on Friday morning while Husky Energy’s SeaRose platform was preparing to restart production during a fierce storm that was, at the time, the most intense in the world,” The Canadian Press reports. By Monday and Tuesday, the oil was no longer visible on the ocean surface, and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) had shifted its attention to monitoring wildlife and investigating the incident. Husky said it had found 15 oiled seabirds so far, but biologists were watching out for a much heavier toll. “Absolutely, any regulatory agency would look at the track record of a company in a case like this, and this will certainly be no exception,” he told CBC. “In this case, the volume of the discharge is significant, and the history of the company, and the fact that it did happen during a severe weather occurrence.” But the Sierra Club Canada Foundation is already pointing to the spill as evidence that “this country is not prepared to handle a major oil spill and is lax in regulating its offshore industry,” iPolitics reports. “Husky is reporting they are unable to confirm the extent of the spill, never mind try and clean it up—a virtually impossible task in seven-metre seas,” said National Program Director Gretchen Fitzgerald. “The fact that they...

Oilsands waste is collected in sprawling toxic ponds. To clean them up, oil companies plan to pour water on them

SOURCE: The Star DATE: November 23, 2018 SNIP: The toxic waste of the Canadian oilpatch [near Fort McMurray, Alberta] has been quietly spreading in the boreal forest since bitumen mining began here in the 1960s. The yogurt-like mix of clay, water, toxic acids, metals and leftover bitumen has sprawled in artificial ponds to cover an area twice the size of the city of Vancouver. More than one trillion litres of the goop, called tailings, fill these man-made waste lakes that can be seen from space. An equivalent amount of water would take five days to tumble over Niagara Falls. The contaminated tailings ponds attract and kill migrating birds. They emit methane and other greenhouse gases. Despite years of public promises from officials that the tailings ponds would shrink and go away, they are growing, and they’re right along the migratory pathways for millions of birds that use the freshwater Peace-Athabasca delta for breeding or as a stopover as they move farther north to breed. And in the meantime, troubling gaps are opening in the oversight system meant to ensure the oilpatch cleans up its mess. Alberta has collected only $1 billion from companies to help remediate tailings — a problem that is now estimated to cost about 100 times that. Decades and billions have been spent on research and still there is no sure solution to a problem that is getting attention beyond Alberta. While the world watches, the mining companies operating here have been allowed by regulators to pursue a clean-up technique called water capping. It’s supposed to work like this: put the tailings into a mined-out pit,...