By Ainslie Cruickshank, The Narwhal
Teck Resources operates some of the biggest coal mines in the country in the Elk Valley and B.C.’s rules allow enormous amounts of selenium pollution to enter the province’s rivers and waterways. But new rules in Montana, which experiences the downstream impacts of Teck’s operations, have the company on the defensive.
Teck Resources, one of Canada’s largest mining companies, is facing pushback over its efforts to weaken new water pollution limits in the state of Montana as B.C. weighs its own implementation of selenium standards for Lake Koocanusa, a reservoir that spans the Canada-U.S. border.
For decades, selenium — an element that can cause deformities and reproductive failure in fish — has leached from enormous waste rock piles at Teck’s coal mines in southeast B.C.’s Elk Valley, polluting waterways that feed the Elk River, which flows directly south into Lake Koocanusa.
Ninety-five per cent of the selenium entering Lake Koocanusa stems from the Elk River, according to Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality, the body which introduced selenium pollution limits for the reservoir in late 2020.
Since 2015 the state of Montana has worked with officials from B.C., First Nations and Tribal governments and scientists to develop a new selenium standard for Lake Koocanusa that would protect aquatic life from the damaging effects of too much selenium by 2020.
While Montana adopted new limits in December of that year, the B.C. government has yet to follow suit.