British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Selenium investigations in the Elk River Valley, B.C. : 2008 update. Chapman, Peter M.; Berdusco, Roger Joseph; Jones, Ron


Regional monitoring of water and biota indicates that there continue to be long-term increases in selenium (Se) in water downstream of the Elk Valley River coal mines, operated by the Elk Valley Coal Corporation. However, monitoring also indicates that Se concentrations in benthic invertebrates, fish muscle and bird eggs, although elevated, have not increased over the last few years. Previous studies have indicated that the viability and productivity of fish and water bird populations do not appear to be adversely impacted by Se. Nor does it appear that human health or terrestrial wildlife (i.e., ungulates) are presently being adversely affected. Current efforts are focused on monitoring and management, in addition to a study attempting to establish a definitive adverse effects threshold for Westslope cutthroat trout in the Elk River Valley. Management investigations include efforts to: predict future Se releases under different mining scenarios and management approaches; determine factors affecting the cycling and conversion of inorganic Se once it enters the aquatic environment; and integrate present and future information to effectively manage Se releases from the coal mines. Research is also being conducted into treatment alternatives to reduce Se loadings to the aquatic environment. Lentic and lotic areas of the Elk River Valley are being mapped to determine the relative proportions of these habitat types both related to future Se studies, and to provide the basis for evaluating the significance of any localized impacts that may occur to the overall health of the Elk River Valley aquatic ecosystem. Selected Se studies conducted through 2007 in the Elk River Valley are being integrated into monitoring and management plans, including a Standard Operating Procedure for fish deformity analysis, and predictive modeling of fish populations.

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