Another spill, another black mark against the city, says the Trail mayor.
Mayor Mike Martin is speaking about national headlines Wednesday afternoon following Teck Trail Operations discharging water containing metals in the Stoney Creek area around 2 p.m.
In a news release issued at 4 p.m., the company stated the incident was believed to be the result of a break in a line carrying runoff water from an historic landfill to the on-site effluent treatment plant across the highway.
“It again brings the City of Trail to the forefront for all the wrong reasons,” Martin told the Trail Times Thursday morning. “While we effectively work daily to improve the image of the city and have taken numerous positive proactive steps, this is yet another setback for the city that we will have to deal with,” he added. “The city has so much to offer and it is overshadowed by these types of events.”
The gravity of the incident rose before the mining giant could even get its facts straight.
Social media blew up with misinformation before Teck issued its official report. Around 3 p.m. the Twitter handle, ScanBC posted “Report of large, hazardous material spill from Teck #TrailBC ops into nearby river, possibly Columbia. Crews responding.”
“As an added note, inaccurate information was posted earlier yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon on ScanBC after picking up radio chatter,” explains Community Relations Leader, Catherine Adair. “We have no input or control as to what may be tweeted on that feed, and it was not verified in any way prior to being reported on by many media outlets.”
The incident remains under investigation, confirmed Richard Deane, Teck’s public affairs and commercial services manager.
He wasn’t able to confirm the volume of contaminated water that leaked near the creek by press time Thursday.
“We are conducting a full investigation of the incident including detection and response,” said Deane. “At this time I am not able to provide further details.”
While the company continues its follow up, Martin and his council are left with the media fallout.
“From a city perspective, we try to maintain a positive relationship and keep communication open with Teck in terms of supporting the operation in Trail,” Martin shared. “But we are very disappointed with this latest incident that now follows a series of issues and is yet another black mark for Trail and it’s residents.”
Teck reported the event to the city shortly after occurrence. Martin was made aware the leakage was a relatively small with no risk to human health, and that emergency crews were on site.
But damage to the city’s image was already done.
“As much as we have seen tremendous overall improvements in Teck’s environmental performance, these spills and the associated negative publicity are having a huge detrimental impact on our community,” Martin emphasized. “The impact is not only an environmental one but it also impacts property values, economic development and the city’s ability to grow.”
He says the city will be asking Teck for additional steps to stop the “unacceptable spills.”
“A means to stop this needs to be found,” Martin said. “And the city will also be asking the company to consider a further commitment as part of dealing more directly with the considerable public relations damage that has occurred over the last few years,” he continued. “(This is) in hopes that the city can start to address some of the negative economic impacts this has seemingly had on the community.”
Teck Trail Operations was recently penalized $3.4 million in Rossland Provincial Court in relation to 13 accidental discharges into the river between November 2013 and February 2015.
In the Wednesday incident, the discharge occurred in an area on the west side of Highway 22 and not at an actual river outfall.