Update: Tailings dam collapses at former Gullbridge mine site

Published on December 17, 2012

About 25 volunteers were unloading bottle after bottle of True North water at the town office in South Brook early this afternoon.

Stepping off the passing line and into the office, South Brook mayor Paul Mills gave his arms a break while he spoke with The Telegram about the potential contamination of the town’s water supply by mine waste.

The provincial Department of Environment has stated the a 50-metre-wide break in the dam holding back tailings at the old Gullbridge mine site, a shuttered copper mine about 20 kilometres from South Brook water supply.

“Our town water comes from a well, but if the water levels in the river are high enough, then there could be some cross-contamination,” Mills said. “We’re waiting for formal testing to take place.”

Residents of South Brook are being advised not to consume the water in any way until tests are completed by the provincial government. No details on the tests — what the tests are looking for or what area they will cover — has been released at this point.

“I expect it’s going to take a number of tests over a period of time before we’re given the all-clear,” Mills said.

Mills said, after being notified of the dam failing this morning, the town’s emergency plan allowed volunteers to be contacted quickly and required measures to be brought into place and notifications made.

The town is not in a state of emergency, he said, but has used the emergency plan to respond to the notice of the release of old mine waste.

Mills said bottles of water are being made available at the town office into the night and volunteers are delivering water to those calling in need.

As for cost, the company has "responded to our request for water and we’re going to do the settling up after the fact,” Mills said.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Earlier story:

The tailings dam at the former Gullbridge mine site has collapsed, according to a news release from the departments of environment and conservation, and health and community services.

The news release states, “The area of the failure is approximately 50 metres wide and the full height of the dam.”

Residents of South Brook are being advised not to drink the water or to use it for consumption, washing food or brushing teeth, as the town’s main water supply is 20 kilometres downstream form the site. Washing clothes, handwashing, bathing and washing dishes are considered safe, but further precautions may be necessary.

 A salmon river is also in the area.

Officials are sampling water on the scene and evaluating long-term repair possibilities. The Telegram will provide more information as it becomes available.