Arsenic lawsuit
Brown pond new cause of concern

by P.J. Harston
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 07/97) - A city resident who has launched a lawsuit against the territorial and federal governments over arsenic emissions says a pond that has turned brown may be cause for concern.

Dave Talbot, who wants $7-million from the governments for what he claims is negligence in dealing with spills and leaks from mining sites, said he believes another leak has occurred in a pond near Vee Lake road by Giant mine.

However, Royal Oak Mines says it's not their fault the pond turned brown.

"It has nothing to do with us," said Graham Ecott, Royal Oak's media spokesman in a telephone interview from Kirkland Lake, Ont.

Talbot, who keeps regular watch over tailings pond activity near Yellowknife, said Wednesday morning he believes some untreated tailings pond effluent from the mine may be the culprit.

"I first noticed it Sunday morning when just one spot on the pond was brown. Now the whole surface has changed color," said the 18-year resident who is a vice-president of the Union of Northern Workers.

An operations official with the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs said Wednesday afternoon that his people are investigating Talbot's claim.

"We are aware of the report and we have had people out to the site to investigate and take samples," said Floyd Adlam, director of operations.

"That's where we're at with it now."

Friday morning Adlam said preliminary results suggest the brown liquid is not tailings effluent, however, more details may be revealed following further analysis.

Territorial hazardous substance co-ordinator Ken Hall said he, too, is aware of Talbot's report, and has passed the information along to Adlam's department.

"Mine sites that have a water licence are monitored by Northern Affairs," he said.

Under a "spills working agreement," government departments that would otherwise overlap - such as the territorial Environment Department, Environment Canada and DIAND - each have agreed jurisdiction over different environmental concerns.

"In this case, DIAND is the lead agency and I understand they are looking into the report as we speak," said Hall.

Untreated tailings pond effluent contains such substances as arsenic, cyanide, lead and zinc, Talbot said, a result of the smelting process that ore goes through in order to separate rock from gold.

He believes spills and leaks are a serious problem that need to be addressed by federal and territorial government officials.

If he is successful in his lawsuit, Talbot said he'll give the money to Ecology North to help clean up the environment.