As part of Teck’s ongoing work dealing with historic groundwater contamination from their Trail Operations site, the company will begin work on a temporary pumping station at the boat launch near Gyro Park next week.
The work is an interim step until the full measure of Teck’s remediation plan to remove and treat affected groundwater can come into effect.
“We’re working closely with Environment Canada and the Ministry of Environment,” said Catherine Adair, community relations leader for Teck. “We’ve spent a number of years studying what and where the impacts of the operation are showing up and now we’re moving into the stage of dealing with them.”
With so much media and government attention on environmental matters in recent years it can be difficult to recall the days when people, governments, and industry weren’t as focussed on the affects of their social and economic activity on the world around them.
However, living in a place such as Trail, with a history of intensive industrial activity reaching back over 100 years, issues sometimes arise from the past that need to be dealt with today.
Effluent from the refining and smelting operations in Trail were stored on the property in unlined storage ponds up until the early 1980’s.
Over the decades some of the effluent seeped into the groundwater under the property and has entered the aquifer under the Columbia River and East Trail.
“We’re mainly looking at ammonia and sulfates that leached into the ground but there are some metals present as well,” said Adair. “We’ve known about it since 2001 and since that time we’ve been working with the regulatory authorities deciding on the best plan to fix it.”
The current work involves installing a pump in the bay near the boat launch in East Trail which will only be used during times when the river is at it’s lowest volume and the upwelling contaminated groundwater reaches higher concentrations in the bay. At times of low flow the pump will increase the circulation of the water in the bay with the higher volume flow of the main body of the river.
The work is being conducted with all necessary regulatory permits, notifications, and approvals in place and studies conducted on the bay water have determined that it remains safe for recreational use.
The longer term remediation project involves installing a series of wells along the west bank of the river below Teck between Trail Operations and East Trail where the groundwater will be collected before pumping it up for treatment on company property.
“We’re building a new effluent treatment plant, in part to deal with the groundwater issue,” Adair said. “Construction is expected to take approximately five years and is estimated to cost $32 million.”
The current interim project will require short-term road and sidewalk closures along the river in East Trail and may intermittently impact recreational access to the boat launch.
Once installation is complete the system is expected to have no impact on use of the boat launch or the bay area.