Alberta moving forward on 2 new plans to maintain river water quality

Alberta is proposing two new plans to monitor water quality on the North Saskatchewan, Battle and Upper Athabasca rivers.

Environment Minister Jason Nixon says clear objectives to monitor and maintain water quality are to be established.

Similar approaches are already in place for the Lower Athabasca, Bow, South Saskatchewan, Oldman and Milk rivers.

Nixon says consultations and feedback for a framework will begin immediately and continue until mid-September.

He adds that public input on the water plans will also be given to an ongoing government consultation on coal mining on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

READ MORE: Contaminant from coal mines already high in some Alberta rivers: unreported data 

Nixon says the province will partner with the Alberta Energy Regulator to review the effect of selenium — an element commonly found in coal mines that is toxic to fish in large doses — on water quality throughout the life span of a mine.

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“The review will look at Alberta’s current approach and regulatory requirements for the application, construction, operation, decommissioning and reclamation of mines, with the aim to identify any findings that could pose a threat to water quality,” Nixon said Tuesday.

He stressed that consultations on a water framework will work hand in glove with the coal review.

“This provides an avenue for Albertans who are participating in the coal consultation process to actually engage with the department that’s involved in and in charge of water,” said Nixon.

READ MORE: Calgary’s water likely safe following coal policy changes, High River area a concern 

The province also released a report into the effects of mining operations, now inactive, on the McLeod River watershed in west-central Alberta between 2005 and 2016.

The report found selenium levels immediately downstream of reclamation activities are decreasing overall, but still at elevated concentrations in some spots.

All three mines in the McLeod watershed are in the decommissioning or reclamation phase.

The government says it is currently monitoring water quality at 115 sites across the province.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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