Teck says ice, not coal waste, killed fish

Rob Chaney

A Canadian coal company claims a major fish kill upstream of Montana’s Koocanusa Reservoir was due to cold weather and habitat changes, and not selenium discharges from its mines.

Teck Coal has faced mounting criticism from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Montana Department of Environmental Quality and Canadian environmental organizations over the levels of toxic mine waste downstream from its coal mines. The loss of nearly 90% of cutthroat trout in the Upper Fording River near one of the mines in the winter of 2018-19 was a factor driving significantly stricter standards for selenium in transboundary water flows coming into Montana.

In an internal Evaluation of Cause study, Teck researchers reported the fish kill was due to extreme ice conditions combined with mining development that eliminated some of the overwintering habitat the fish used on the Fording River.

“The findings indicate water quality constituents, including selenium, were not a primary contributor to the decline,” the report stated.

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The new report met skepticism from environmental organizations monitoring Teck. Wyatt Petryshen of the Canadian organization WildSight said the company’s internal analysis avoided looking at causes that might

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