Expert warns of aquifer contamination

Independent consultants present Ajax conclusions at public forum

-originally posted on April 4, 2016


An expert in contaminant hydrology says the Peterson Creek aquifer should be declared contaminated if the Ajax Mine proceeds.

Kevin Morin, whose consulting firm Minesite Drainage Assessment Group was commissioned by the Sierra Club of B.C. to review KGHM’s mine application, said the document greatly underestimates the flow of contaminated groundwater.

“The volume of contaminated water flowing from the (proposed) east mine rock storage facility into the groundwater will be at least 16 times higher than modelled,” according to Morin’s report. He believes the contaminated water would flow into the Peterson Creek aquifer.

Morin is one of three experts who will present their findings Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., at a public forum at TRU’s Alumni Theatre. A question and answer session will follow.

“As a contamination hydrogeologist with a PhD in this field, I strongly recommend to people using water from the Peterson Creek aquifer to have the well water tested (1) very frequently and (2) in perpetuity, now and in the future if the mine is built. Or, to be more cautious, to avoid using the aquifer water,” Morin notes in his report.

He concludes that “likely impacts, damage and harm to human health and environmental quality are significantly underestimated in the Ajax EIS.”

Anna Simeon, a spokeswoman for Sierra Club, said Morin’s conclusion —  that the intentional contamination of the Peterson Creek Aquifer fails to meet British Columbia’s Water Sustainability Act and the Ground Water Protection Regulation — is disturbing and unacceptable.

A separate report prepared by Morin’s consultancy for Kamloops Area Preservation Association reached conclusions not unlike those of SLR Consulting. Working as the City’s independent consultant, SLR identified significant gaps in its preliminary review of the KGHM environmental assessment.

Morin found that several laboratory methods used by the proponent’s consultants to determine composition and amounts of toxic substances in the mine’s ore and waste rock may underestimate the levels of these substances being emitted into air and water.

The report looked specifically at analytical techniques for chemical elements and concluded, for example, “If the amount of a parameter such as copper is not accurately estimated, then the impact to the surrounding environment and human health cannot be estimated.”

This lack of accurate baseline data led. Morin to be critical of KGHM’s refusal to disclose its assay data and how this data was derived.

“So what are the levels of metals and other potentially toxic elements in Ajax rock, tailings and overburden? We do not know accurately and the company will not tell us. The company claims the environmental analyses in the EIS tell us, but they are wrong.”

“We have been requesting to the government assessment agencies, without success, for four years that KGHM release not only all of their assay data, but how these assays were done,” said John Schleiermacher, KAPA spokesman. “The government assessment agencies must now determine whether the scientific data presented by KGHM is so inaccurate that it invalidates all of their water, air and health studies,” he said.

“KGHM promises us zero-harm and former Environment Minister Terry Lake promised us a rigorous environmental assessment,” Schleiermacher said. “Instead, we have report after report exposing more and more fundamental scientific flaws in KGHM’s Application, to the point that their commitments to zero-harm and the precautionary principle sounds more like a slick sales slogan than sound, credible science.”

Morin will be presenting the finding in the two reports at a public forum on the Ajax mine at the TRU ClockTower building, 7:30 p.m., April 6. Douw Steyn, UBC professor emeritus of atmospheric science, will present his review of air quality modelling, and Kent Watson, a soils specialist will look at the mine’s impacts on soil.

Steyn was hired by Kamloops Moms for Clean Air.

“The people of Kamloops, and especially people in the community with young children and aging parents, deserve to hear as many expert reports as they can regarding any industrial activity that could potentially contribute further burden to the current air pollution load in Kamloops,” said Gina Morris, a member of the group.

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