July 5-12, 2004

BC MOT faces Fisheries Act charges relating to acid rock drainage into creek

VANCOUVER, BC-Environment Canada has charged the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation (MOT) with ten counts under subsection 36(3) of the federal Fisheries Act for permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish. The offences are alleged to have occurred between May 30, 2002 and November 19, 2003. The charges stem from the exposure of a high pyrite rock formation near Pennask Summit during the construction of Highway 97C, known as the Okanagan Connector, from 1987 through 1990. Environment Canada says this exposure resulted in significant acid rock drainage, with metal leaching and discharge into an unnamed tributary of Pennask Creek. (The tributary is commonly referred to as Highway Creek.) Pennask Creek is one of British Columbia's most important trout-bearing streams and provides brood stock for all southern interior British Columbia lakes. The annual value in fish production for this system is estimated at $30 million. MOT officials appeared in BC provincial court in Vancouver last week; a date for a future court appearance is pending. More information is available from John Dyck, head of investigations in Environment Canada's Pacific region office, 604/666-3647.
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