The Western News – Groups press Gov. Bullock to address selenium levels in local waters

By Elka Wood

Five coal mines operated by Teck Resources Ltd. on the Elk River in British Columbia are leaching selenium into Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River at levels that at times far exceed national standards.

Dave Hadden is executive director at Headwaters Montana, and his organization, along with Trout Unlimited, National Parks Conservation Unlimited and local businesses, have in the last month placed paid advertising into local newspapers to call on Gov. Steve Bullock to take further action to address selenium poisoning.  We’ve been working across the border on this issue for 17 years,” Hadden said. “And now we’re asking Bullock to acknowledge that this issue is too big for B.C and Montana to handle on their own.

We’re asking our government to use the Boundary Waters Treaty, created in 1909 to settle disputes about waters bordering the U.S. and Canada, to resolve this.” Coal mining leaves huge amounts of rock in rubble, releasing selenium which has naturally built up in the rock over millennia, said Mike Hensler, fisheries biologist with Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Libby.

“It’s exposed by the process of mining, and once exposed to air, rain and high water, it has nowhere to go but downstream,” he said. “Once it’s in the water, that’s it.” High levels of selenium are associated with reproductive abnormalities in fish, birds and humans, Hensler said.

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