by Shoren Brown
The Alaska Dispatch featured an interesting story on the Red Devil mercury mine cleanup just north of Bristol Bay. Although Alaska Governor Sean Parnell seems dead set against the EPA’s Watershed Assessment, which is aimed at preventing long term water quality damage in Bristol Bay, at the same time he is pressing for additional federal help to clean up a severe mining mess. Red Devil is leaking toxins into the nearby Kuskokwim River, which hundreds of families rely upon for commercial and subsistence fishing. In addition, sediment tests show high levels of mercury and arsenic in surrounding soils.
An Alaska Journal story on the peer review panel quoted former EPA official Bill Reilly, who “said that a key challenge facing Pebble is a very large flow of wastewater, many times the volume of other Alaska mines.” “There will be no opportunity for dilution, unlike all other Alaska mines, prior to discharge,” to the environment, Riley told the independent review panel.
A story in The Bristol Bay Times underscored how robust the Bristol Bay commercial fishery performed this year in comparison to many salmon runs that suffered low returns this year. And, it emphasized how the fishery has grown in size and value. An excerpt reads: “In 2002 the overall harvest was at 10.6 -- less than half of this year's bay harvest -- and red prices hovered at 50 cents -- half of this year's tentative dollar per pound.”
Finally, mining blogger and veteran mining engineer Jack Caldwell had strong words for the peer review panel that reviewed EPA’s Watershed report. But, he had stronger words for mining tailings facilities and their prospect for failure. He writes: “It all boils down to these facts:
• Modern tailings facilities do fail.
• In the long term all tailings facilities will fail.
• And when they fail, the environment better be able to absorb the failure,
• Or all hell will break loose for fish and people.”
Shoren Brown is the Save Bristol Bay campaign director for Trout Unlimited.