Thoughts on the Mount Polley Tailing Mines Disaster – What it means to us

The ongoing nightmare on Quesnel Lake from the Mount Polley Tailing “Pond”, has huge ramifications for us in Washington State and the Olympic Peninsula. This fiasco is being whitewashed by the politicians from both the Provincial and the Federal level in Canada. The official line is ‘it’s not that bad” when the truth is it’s likely far worse than anyone imagines. Huge amounts of highly toxic materials, including the possibility of radioactive material (that is now being discussed in official circles), pose grave downstream risks to the Salish Sea  and the Columbia Basin.

The primary talked about toxin in this stew is mercury. Lots of it. It’s used in this kind of mining and ends up being a by-product that can’t be removed,  just managed. We already deal with mercury in our fish, to a manageable degree. However, without knowing how much mercury might be in the tailings that are now in the Lake, the government has been suggesting that there is nothing to fear from the water. Let’s be clear, mercury ingested in significant amounts can cause Minamata’s Disease. Look it up on Wikipedia. It was highlighted in a Pulitzer Prize winning article in Life Magazine in the 1970s, when an entire village in Minamata Japan suffered from horrible birth defects because of unregulated mercury poisoning. The Canadian Government is putting it’s people at serious risk by inaction. And us too. 

To quote part of the Wikipedia article:

Symptoms (of mercury poisoning and Minamata Disease) includeataxianumbness in the hands and feet, general muscle weakness, narrowing of the field of vision, and damage tohearing and speech. In extreme cases, insanityparalysiscoma, and death follow within weeks of the onset of symptoms. A congenital form of the disease can also affect foetuses in the womb.

All these were experienced in Japan in the 70s in Minamata. 

And this is just one of the toxins that was contained behind this tailing dam. 

Without immediate work to setup coffer dams and drain the areas around the spill in Quesnel Lake, we may see a huge amount of mercury, along with other toxins, enter the Salish Sea, and the Columbia River Basin and affect the Sockeye that come out of Quesnel, one of the largest sockeye spawning habitat in Canada.

These fish make up the primary food of the remaining local pods of Orcas. And our fishermen catch them and we eat them. Lots of them. In other words, our fishing industry and our Orcas could be at risk.

We need our politicians to act now, to demand that the Canadian government stop pretending this not a serious problem and begin cleanup of this spill. There has been to date, no work begun on cleaning up the spill! 

This is not just about the lame excuses that Victoria gives us about how they think their untreated sewage is not affecting the Straits. This is about possibly poisoning our fish and ourselves. And if we don’t stop it soon, it may be permanent. An oozing toxic mess that’s not cleaned up will pose a threat for decades to come. Just ask the folks at Hanford.

The mine managers and the regulators that refused to enforce the laws, have created an environmental disaster of monumental proportion that has yet to fully unfold. What matters now is protecting the entire river systems that will carry this muck to the ocean. 

What’s the possibility of the US having a significant say in this issue? Read the following excellent article about our treaties with Canada, and the power that we have to force them to change legally. And remember that it’s because we have a Democratic, environmentally supportive president that we can read something like this. In a different previous era, our government would likely have been looking the other way in support of rampant environmental degradation.

Stephen Hume: Political fallout from Mount Polley mine spill may come from U.S.

New Olympia oyster habitat created in Discovery Bay – PDN

I guess this would be considered tooting my own horn. Thanks to the PDN for covering it.

Volunteers with the Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee have created a new half-acre of native Olympia oyster habitat at the south end of Discovery Bay. The group’s goal is to jump-start an expansion of the small but thriving Olympia oyster population near the project site.  (Peninsula Daily News)

http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20140820/NEWS/308209982/new-olympia-oyster-habitat-created-in-discovery-bay

Want to learn to change the world? Idea #2: Watch this video

This month, Netflix launches Sylvia Earle’s “Mission Blue”. Another heroine of mine. Who is she? Check Wikipedia out

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvia_Earle

Co-directed by Fisher Stevens (“The Cove”) and Robert Nixon (“Gorillas in the Mist”), the film, like Sylvia herself, doesn’t pull punches. It is hard hitting, but also inspiring. This is in keeping with her experience of the ocean itself, a vast and awesome location and community, at once fragile and powerful enough that while its immediate future is in our hands, our long-term future depends utterly on its continued health and functioning.

“No ocean, no life,” she says. “No ocean, no us.”

Another 5 stars. See this movie. Then come on out and let’s get working!

http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2014/08/15/sylvia-earles-mission-blue-arrives-on-netflix-today/

Want to learn to change the world? Idea #1 – Read this biography

Alice Paul was a giant figure on the 20th Century political landscape, whom mainstream history has totally buried, while extolling the work, albeit important, of Susan B. Anthony. While Anthony got women’s rights off the ground, Alice Paul ran the ball to the end zone, and then was forgotten. Her place in American history is the subject of a new book, well researched, called, Alice Paul: Claiming Power.

Once past the opening chapters that describe her Quaker upbringing, which are a bit slow reading, we see her radicalization process in the UK early in the 1900s. Gandhi saw her speak back than and learned from her tactics. She was a true radical with a velvet glove and political savvy that got her amazing results.

If you are into working for political change, here’s a book to read that can make you understand how to achieve your goals. Persistence and organizational skills,  along with an ability to roust people to take action.

5 stars.

Alice Paul: Claiming Power by J.D Zahniser and Ameila R. Fry. The Oxford Press.

UH study: High levels of mercury found in fish substitutions – KITV.COM

Disturbing new study from University of Hawaii. Looks like Sea Bass may be off the list of food to eat, since it’s impossible to know where it really came from. Or which part of the sales chain is falsifying the data. It appears to be the people sourcing it.

HONOLULU —New measurements from fish purchased at retail seafood counters in 10 different states show the extent to which mislabeling can expose consumers to unexpectedly high levels of mercury, a harmful pollutant, according to a new study from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Read more: http://www.kitv.com/news/uh-study-high-levels-of-mercury-found-in-fish-substitutions/27594146#ixzz3Ard63ZMK

Original Study named:

Seafood Substitutions Obscure Patterns of Mercury Contamination in Patagonian Toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) or “Chilean Sea Bass”

Sea otter caught on camera in rare sighting near B.C.’s Georgia Strait – CBC News

Good news to see that they are being spotted in the Strait.

Cheryl Alexander almost couldn’t believe her eyes when she spotted a sea otter frolicking and feeding in a cove off Ten Mile Point in Victoria, B.C., Thursday morning.

Head Of EPA Tours Puget Sound, Supports Congressional Cleanup Caucus – KPLU

Hopefully we’ll see some meaningful action from her visit.

She’s been called President Obama’s “green quarterback.” Gina McCarthy is the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and she’s known for tackling sources of climate change. And now she’s shining a light on efforts to clean up Puget Sound. McCarthy met with government officials and community groups in Tacoma on Wednesday and toured Commencement Bay by boat to learn more about what still needs to be done. Bellamy Pailthorp reports. (KPLU)

http://www.kplu.org/post/head-epa-tours-puget-sound-supports-congressional-cleanup-caucus

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