2013 brings new threats to the environment

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I write to thank the diligent people at The Telegram for trying to track down what was in the tailings impoundment that broke upstream of South Brook on Dec. 17, way back in 2012.

In these days of “blink and you miss it” media, it was gratifying to see that The Telegram was trying to track down what toxins and heavy metals were placed in the tailings pond upstream of South Brook so many decades ago.

In the Jan. 15 edition of The Telegram (“Dam went more than a year without repairs before failure”), the mayor of South Brook reported that he was not informed about this threat to his town’s drinking water, or the instability of the dam — which the province knew about for two years.

Luckily for the people of South Brook, consultants’ reports state the tailing weren’t as toxic as other mine tailings — but the threat of acid mine drainage affecting fish habitat and contamination in drinking water should not be dismissed — especially come spring runoff.

Closing doors

Shutting down access to information seems to have gone viral in Canadian politics, from breathtakingly reckless federal omnibus bills passed without review or debate to the limits to public information that prevented The Telegram (and the rest of us) from knowing what risks the tailings at the former Gullbridge copper mine represented.

This spill tells us that when governments try to hide things, the truth will out — with dangerous consequences to our health, way of life, and wildlife.

I fear that 2013 will bring further threats to water and fisheries brought about by hasty changes to federal Fisheries, Environmental Assessment, and Navigable Waters Protection (now re-named Navigation Protection) Acts — all the more reason for the provincial governments to be vigilant and up-front with the electorate.

Meanwhile, we call on the Natural Resources and Environment departments to reveal what contaminants are in the tailings and runoff from Gullbridge, vigilantly monitor runoff to make sure drinking water is safe and reduce impacts of on the nearby wildlife and fish through a thorough cleanup.

And since the entire $750,000 the province allocated for remediation of the over 600 tailings sites in the province has now been expended on South Brook, the government needs to allocate funds to take on these other sites before even more dire disasters occur.

Gretchen Fitzgerald

director, Sierra Club Atlantic

Organizations: The Telegram, Navigable Waters Protection, Sierra Club Atlantic

Geographic location: South Brook

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