"We poked it with a stick.."

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Magical Realist, Sep 2, 2014.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    "British Columbia says there's nothing to fear about the mysterious, blue, waxy sheen floating on the lake below the mine tailings disaster. You know, the one that spilled 14.5 million cubic meters of toxin-laden mining waste slurry into the river system on August 4.

    "It was poked with a stick," an environment ministry spokeswoman told reporters on August 22, and it was declared likely "organic."

    But local residents and a marine biologist say the still-unknown bluish-green film burned their skin like a jellyfish sting.

    The substance appeared in the weeks since the collapse of a massive dirt dam holding back Imperial Metals Corporation's toxin-filled copper mine tailings. The disaster flooded local Hazeltine Creek with a sludgy torrent of 10 million cubic metres of tailings water and 4.5 million cubic metres of sediment.

    Driven by skepticism after government tests repeatedly declared the lake water safe to drink and local fish edible, marine biologist Alexandra Morton traveled to ground zero of the accident with her own sample kit and research equipment.

    There, local residents alerted her to something amiss floating on their supposedly "drinkable" lake water.

    "There's a number of residents in the area who were concerned about it because they had touched it and it caused a drying sensation on their arms and it burned their fingers," Morton said. "In transferring it from my net to my jars, I got it on my fingers — and it does burn.

    "It feels like a jellyfish sting. It looks like oil, but it breaks up. It kind of acts like hot wax put on water; it forms this stiff film."

    Morton, who holds an honorary PhD in science from Simon Fraser University and a bachelor of science from American University, took her sealed sample jar to a laboratory in Vancouver to be analyzed.

    "When we got there the jar was clear," she said. "You couldn't see this blue film anymore. But when you opened the jar, there was a hiss of escaping steam. So whatever it was had gone into a gas form."

    She also reported the substance to an official with the Interior Health Authority, who replied with this message:

    "Thank you again for alerting us about the blue film that you are observing on Quesnel Lake," wrote regional director of health protection, Roger Parsonage, on August 19. "I would appreciate whatever assistance you can provide in getting this message to people who have suffered health effects from exposure to this substance. If possible, see their healthcare provider for a diagnosis."

    In a conference call August 22, environment minister Mary Polak downplayed any health risks from contact with the sheen.

    According to an environment ministry memo dated August 21 and addressed to the assistant deputy minister of the Environmental Protection Division, government researchers found the substance in an area of Quesnel Lake covered in floating woody debris carried down from the dam collapse.

    "Upon visual inspection of the blue sheen, the sheen was poked with a stick to determine if natural or related to petroleum spills," wrote Deborah Epps, the ministry's section head for provincial water quality. "The sheen broke apart and did not flow back together. This is indicative of plant or animal decomposition. If the sheen swirls immediately back together, it is from petroleum."

    The letter says there was no odor, but did not mention whether it had tested for burning or stinging effects on skin. Epps said a sample was sent to a laboratory and tested for lignins and tannins, which would indicate plant origins. The results found that the levels were "below the drinking water guideline."

    "Based on the field observations and lab results, the blue sheen is a result of the decaying vegetation/trees in the lake due to the tailings breach and does not impact human health at this time," she concluded.

    Nonetheless, Morton questioned the government's nothing-to-see-here response to what has been called the worst tailings pond disaster in Canadian history. Should authorities be so quick to rule out the possibility that the waxy, burning sheen might be related to toxins released with the disaster?

    "They might be right, but here's the thing," she quipped. "The people of Likely, the town below this, don't believe the government. They're not drinking the water."====https://news.vice.com/article/the-m...ous-waxy-blue-substance?utm_source=vicenewsfb
     
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  3. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    Heck, as long as an old man played named Olin Howland isn't poking it and Steve McQueen isn't in the neighborhood, it's gotta be safe.
     
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  5. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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