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Public to get look at six options for Lake Manitoba outlet
Staff Writer, Winnipeg Free Press September 2, 2014
The public will get its first explanation of six options for a new outlet for Lake Manitoba at an open house in Ashern on Sept. 18.
Mount Polley mine breach: Elevated levels of chemical elements near tailings pond
The Canadian Press August 29, 2014
WILLIAMS LAKE — Elevated levels of seven chemical elements have been found by B.C. government staff in the sediment near a mine tailings spill.
The Ministry of Environment says copper, iron, manganese, arsenic, silver, selenium and vanadium were found in concentrations that exceeded provincial standards during testing near the Mount Polley mine Aug. 12 and Aug. 15.
The early August failure of the mine's tailings pond released millions of cubic metres of water and silt into local fish-bearing streams.
But the ministry says testing before the spill, at the end of May, also showed the seven chemical elements exceeded the same provincial guidelines.
Interior Health will continue to monitor testing results for potential long-term health risks, and the agency continues to advise local residents not to drink cloudy water.
Mine owner Imperial Metals is responsible for cleaning up the spill, and several investigations are examining the causes of the breach.
More water, sewer pipes need repair
The StarPhoenix August 29, 2014
Despite a $10.6-million injection into upgrading water and sewer pipes this year, the City of Saskatoon still has a 20-kilometre backlog of pipes in need of repair.
Old pipes made with materials like cast iron are prone to breaking, and the city is systematically replacing them with plastic pipes or lining them with inner pipes. Lining is the preferred method because it's cheaper and less disruptive to traffic.
Older pipes are prevalent throughout Saskatoon.
Chris Hallam, the city's director of construction and design, said work to line and replace all of them will be going on for "many years to come." Pipes that have broken six times in the last 25 years are the highest priority.
About 20 kilometres of pipes with six or more breaks still need to be lined or replaced.
Boil water advisory in effect in parts of Gatineau, 9,700 homes affected
Andrew Nguyen, Ottawa Citizen August 29, 2014
The city of Gatineau issued a boil water advisory Friday for about 9,700 homes in the Buckingham and Masson-Angers areas, which is expected to last at least 48 hours.
During this period, residents should boil their water for one minute before consuming it. The boil water advisory is only for water that will be consumed or used for brushing teeth.
In 48 hours, the city will receive the test results of the water and will inform the public whether the advisory can be lifted.
It does not affect water used for baths, showers, dishes and laundry.
Officials warn that, if residents find that their tap water is discoloured to let the water run until it becomes clear again.
Once the advisory has been lifted, residents should open all cold water taps and let the water run for one minute or until the water runs cold before using it. The same should be done for water fountains and residents should throw away any ice that was made while the boil water advisory was in effect.
Little beads causing big problems: Consumer products: B.C. should ban biohazardous microplastics that end up in waterways
Spencer Chandra Herbert, Special to the Sun, Vancouver Sun August 29, 2014
The dangers that plastics pose to wildlife and waterways is well known. Most of us have seen pictures of turtles tangled in plastic shopping bags, or seabirds strangled by sixpack rings. What is harder to see and take pictures of is the damage being done by tiny beads of plastic contained in products like facial scrubs and toothpaste.
These tiny beads of plastic, often called microbeads or microplastics, are so small that they slip through our waste water treatment systems and into our streams, lakes and rivers, washing up on shore. Peter Ross of the Vancouver Aquarium's ocean pollution science program recently co-authored a study that showed massive amounts of this plastic waste is present in the waters off our coast.
These plastics are impossible to clean up once they are in our waterways or on our beaches, and while they are small, they can cause big problems.
Fish and other sea creatures often mistake microbeads for food such as fish eggs or plankton. This puts them at risk of starvation or malnutrition as the indigestible plastic beads fill their stomachs and prevent them from getting enough food. Like many plastics, microbeads not only can release toxic chemicals, they can also absorb dangerous pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls from the environment. This is even more bad news for the fish and sea creatures that mistake microbeads for food.
Unfortunately, it's even worse news for us, because even if we don't directly eat the fish that consumed these plastic beads, many toxic chemicals bioaccumulate. That means that as big fish eat smaller fish, they consume more and more of these chemicals. They build up, getting more and more concentrated throughout the food chain, and since we're at the top of that food chain, we often get the worst of it.
Microbeads are such a threat to mussels and other shellfish that the Netherlands is campaigning to have them banned across the European Union to protect their shellfish industry. Given that B.C. also relies on the shellfish industry to employ coastal communities, we should show the same level of concern.
So what can we do about microbeads? Illinois answered that question by passing a law banning products containing microbeads from store shelves. New York is looking at similar legislation.
This is the simplest solution, and it's one that is even being supported by some of the biggest companies making these products. For example, Unilever has committed to removing microbeads from all its products by 2015. Clearly, microbeads aren't necessary. Unfortunately, not all companies are on board with this direction, so we need to take action to protect B.C.'s beautiful rivers, lakes and coastal waters, as well as the fish and wildlife that depend on them. That's why I'm calling on the B.C. Liberal government to ban the sale of products containing microbeads in British Columbia.
While we wait for the B.C. Liberal government to act, we can all do our part by refusing to buy these products that threaten our health and environment. Look at the label. If a personal care product contains polyethylene or polypropylene, it often contains microbeads. Look especially carefully at the labels of facial scrubs and other similar products. There are plenty of alternatives that don't threaten our waterways.
We can't afford to ignore the big problems caused by these little pieces of plastic. I'm hopeful that we can work together to end this pointless pollution of our marine ecosystems.
Spencer Chandra Herbert is the B.C. New Democrat spokesman for the environment.
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