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Canada Coal Mining Expansion Prompts Fears of Pollution Flowing into Montana

Dec 19, 2012
(Missoulian)

Expansion plans at some Canadian coal mines have alarmed American officials over the amount of heavy metals pollution that could be flowing across the international border into Montana.

"We're seeing increased selenium runoff from existing mining activity, that's why we're concerned," said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regional director Jim Martin. “We’ve had a number of formal and informal conversations with the (British Columbia) provincial government."

The mines lie in the Elk River drainage, roughly 100 miles north of Whitefish. That river flows into Lake Koocanusa on the Montana side of the border. In addition to selenium and other heavy metals, the mines contribute high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus compounds that interfere with the river system's aquatic life.