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Canada mines taint Elk River fishery in B.C., threaten downstream fisheries

FISHERIES — A new study says a metal-like element called selenium is leeching from coal mines into the Elk river drainage in southeastern British Columbia, threatening fish habitat in Canada and downstream in Montana.

The study found five coal mines in the Elk River Valley are causing toxic pollution, and four of the coal mines are planning expansions.

The Elk River in the area near Fernie, British Columbia, is a fishing stream prized by fly fishers.

The Missoulian reports a new coal mine proposal and three exploration projects are also under way.

The executive director of a conservation group called Wildsight says the selenium affects reproductive organs in fish and could lead to a population collapse.

The Elk River joins the Kootenai River at Lake Koocanusa.

The study was commissioned by Glacier National Park and carried out by the University of Montana’s Ric Hauer and Erin Sexton.

Expect more information on this alarming development.

Another Green Monday

On Sunday some 50,000 smiling people crossed the finish line of the 34th annual Lilac Bloomsday Run. Around the same time on Sunday, some 70 miles east on Interstate 90, the names of 91 dead miners were read aloud during a memorial anniversary of the 1972 Sunshine Mine disaster. Further east, in West Virginia, 25 families are still coming to terms with a coal mining disaster that rocked their lives a few short weeks ago. To the south, an entire watershed region is effected by one of the worst oil in the history of the United States. And bringing it back closer to home, a community along the Columbia River deals with the daily realization that they’re living in a toxic place without a view of a light at the end of the tunnel.

We have death trap coal mines, oil slick oceans and toxic communities and not a chance in hell that it’s going to get any better without a serious paradigm shift. We love ourselves some cheap energy and as a nation haven’t developed the necessary foresight to see that this cheap fix is costing us in the long run. That and we’re handcuffed to an economic system that relies on our inability to make the tough decisions and sacrifices and stuck with politicians who are co-opted by the dirty money that comes at the cost of lost lives and damaged ecosystems.

In the coming weeks you’re going to hear everyone and their mother say this phrase, “we need to curb our addiction to cheap energy and start investing in renewables.” Well, DUH. But those same people are the same people that don’t have the spine to do anything beyond say what sounds good. Those are the people that rally against the likes of Walget-Meyer yet find themselves with a hodgepodge shopping list of toothpaste, picture frames and apple juice and default to what’s easy and cheap - big box store solution.

We can hope and speak all we want but the bottom line is the only ears worth fighting for are those of people who are and have been the last to get it. And that’s why this fight we’re in is so hard. As Paul Haeder said best in his most recent column in the Inlander, “The media, politicians and business community are the last to really understand.”

After the jump are some stories you might have missed last week.