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Spring melt flows into Baker Creek
Giant Mine clean-up crews quick to divert melt water path

Danielle Sachs
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, May 9, 2012

While some wait for the ice to melt with growing anticipation, along Baker Creek the melt is met with trepidation and 24-hour monitoring.

On May 3, an area of spring run-off deposited silt into Baker Creek raising concerns about possible arsenic-contaminated sediments entering the creek.

Adrian Paradis, acting manager of the Giant Mine Remediation Project, said the area was no bigger than a ditch and was caught quickly.

"It was only running into the creek for a few hours," he said. "There was nothing there during morning inspections and it was caught early in the afternoon."

Paradis said the ditch was small enough that someone could easily just step right over it. But precautions were still immediately taken and the stream was diverted around the area where it was picking up sediment.

The area is regularly inspected during the approximately six-week thaw period, with inspections continuing throughout the night.

The situation is much different than last May, when Baker Creek broke its banks and flowed into a tailings pond, before flowing back into the creek and into Back Bay. Tests afterwards showed arsenic levels 700 times higher than the acceptable levels for drinking water.

"This is a very different thing," said Paradis. "Last year it was a historic tailings pond. This is related to overland flow, think of water flowing down a road," he said. "It went through some piles of dirt."

Water samples were taken at three different locations for testing. They were taken from the ditch, from the intersection of the ditch and Baker Creek and 50 metres downstream.

While preliminary results are in, the official results aren't expected for a few days. But according to the preliminary results, arsenic levels were well below acceptable levels for the area.

Randy Freeman, director of lands and environment for the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, said he's extremely pleased with the response.

"This is the same time of year where all that trouble happened last year," he said. "I think they've done a wonderful job because of lessons learned last year."

Freeman was kept informed of the situation with regular updates, including the preliminary numbers from the samples.

"The TSS (total suspended solids) number was visibly high, but even just 50 metres downstream it was below what was deemed acceptable," said Freeman. "They're very free with sharing that information with the Yellowknives Dene," he said of the Giant Mine Remediation Project.

"There's no concern for human or environmental health," said Paradis. "There's no risk for the fish that will soon be living in the creek either."

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