NEWS

Pumping continues at damaged B.C. tailings pond

07/05/2012 04:20 EDT | Updated 09/04/2012 05:12 EDT
Officials are bringing in more pumps to drain water on a tailings pond near Salmo, B.C., after the pond's dam breached earlier this week.

Now, officials with the Regional District of Central Kootenay worry the dam could give way.

"We have a partial loss of the dam that holds the tailings pond," said Uli Wolf, the district's manager of environmental services.

"A complete and fast breach would allow these materials to rush out of here beyond our control,"

Three pumps have been running around the clock since Wednesday night, when heavy rain destabilized the land around the old Hudsons Bay mine site. The regional district said it hoped to have two additional pumps installed Thursday.

The region saw a staggering amount of rain in the month of June. It was the rainiest June on record, according to meteorologist Ron Lakeman.

Wolf says the tailings pond just couldn't hold the increased pressure from the extra water.

"We are breaking every record in the books, so this is beyond design capacity that is normally predicted."

The best estimate is that there are 200,000 cubic meters of tailings in the pond.

If the dam bursts, it could flood across Highway 3 and onto the farm Susan Lifely rents, downstream.

"Yeah, I am nervous but I am hoping everything will just hang in there with the sunshine. We don't need any more rain," she said.

Once enough water is pumped out of the tailings pond, officials say they plan to reinforce the dam.

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