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«Amazay Lake Photo by Patrice Halley Draft Submission to the Kemess North Joint Review Panel May, 2007 Report Prepared By: Loraine Littlefield Linda ...»

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Although a summary of the preliminary findings are attached, we are currently waiting for the final results from the UNBC laboratory. While this is being done, we are continuing to focus on building capacity within the communities. We secured funding from the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council to send one employee to Malaspina University College who offered a certificate program in environmental monitoring. This program is focused specifically on First Nations students and was held in Saikuz (Stoney Creek, northern B.C.). Staff that collected samples throughout the summer were also invited to work on the analysis at UNBC. Over a two week period, the lab technician at the university trained one staff member in preparing samples for analysis and the process involved in getting the end results. This was beneficial in that many community members are already beginning to ask about the lab results so it was valuable for the staff to be able to report back to them while being able to describe the process.

The research assistant in Prince George has become proficient in Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Endnote, and general and academic research skills. We are currently working on her report writing and seeking out opportunities for her to complete a course to improve her research skills. She recently attended a conference titled ‘Research Use Week’ in Prince George which was attended by researchers with diverse backgrounds.

Topics included information on different types of methodology and discussions on reading research articles. This type of capacity building is an important element of this project. One of our goals is to ensure that this project is sustainable into the future and we are accomplishing that goal by training the current staff members.

Preliminary Findings from Qualitative Interviews Analysis of the qualitative interviews that took place in Takla Landing and Tsay Keh Dene resulted in three key themes being identified. These three themes can be considered preliminary findings of the research. They are environmental degradation and pollution, impacts on wildlife, fish, and plants, and impacts on human health.

1. Environmental Degradation and Pollution Interviews with members of TLFN and TKD reveal that there are many instances of environmental contamination and pollution in the territories that have been identified by community members. In some interview transcripts, people have talked about coming across debris left behind by miners and other industry. For example, rusted barrels and old culvert pipes have been seen in Takla Lake, Bear Lake and at Bulkley House. BC Rail ties that have been treated with creosote remain beside the train tracks between the community of Takla Landing and Minaret and old vehicles, drums, machinery and garbage are reportedly buried at the end of Johanson airport.

Pollution was also identified as a concern. Interviewees have stated that many of the region’s lakes have been destroyed. For example, we were told that Second Lake by Silver Creek is now green/blue in colour, but it wasn’t like that 20-25 years ago. This is thought to be due to an old silver mine nearby that left a clear green substance at the bottom of lake. Silver Lake is also considered to be ruined by mining and dead fish have been reported floating in the lake. Other examples of pollution that have been reported in the area include the Caribou Flats fuel dump, where “sludgy gooey stuff” is in the water that looks like oil and at Baker Mine there is a white substance present in the creek; the people who work in the area claim that the water is not safe to drink.

Recent water testing by the Community Health Representative in Takla Landing indicated high E. coli in Kemess Creek and Nolan Creek, which runs into Johanson River. There is also concern that there is too much clear cut logging that is destroying old hunting and trapping trails that are hundreds of years old. Interviewees note that creeks and streams are drying out, and that glaciers are melting in the mountains. At Grassy Bluff, a culvert needs to be fixed to make it passable for the fish. Another interviewee commented on the BC Hydro lines that are in Takla Lake and expressed concerns about the potential impacts.

Overall, interviewees expressed fear that the waters (lakes, streams, and creeks) will become too contaminated resulting in a water shortage for future generations and possibly causing plants to become contaminated as well.

2. Impacts

Wildlife:

Interviews revealed that many people have noticed signs that animal health is suffering.

Interviewees note that animals are already showing signs of getting sick from environmental contaminants. For example, many people have said that groundhogs are not healthy and frequently have yellow stomachs, bald spots, and are often very skinny.

Many people say that the meat of this food staple looks different in colour and texture.

Ducks also have yellow stomachs and have “hardly any meat on them.” It is noted that there has been a significant decline in the moose population. Moose are often very skinny, and have signs of poor health, such as white lumps, or cysts, warts, and bald spots. Moose meat that is mushy and discoloured has also been reported.

Interviewees say that they have noticed a decline in the populations of wolves, owls, and skunks and that the porcupine has almost completely disappeared. Frog populations have also declined, and many frogs are deformed. It has also been noted that mosquitos are getting bigger and deadlier each year and it is hypothesized that this may have something to do with the contamination of swamps. In general, people have noticed declines in population and signs of poor health among many species. It is the overall sense that the wildlife is moving away from the area to avoid the industrial activity.





Fish:

Fish health and population was also a concern for many of the interviewees. Williston Lake Reservoir was noted as a badly polluted water body where the fish have high mercury content. According to many of the interviewees, people do not eat fish from that area anymore. In terms of health, bull trout with white gel on their gills have been seen at Old Man Fell Down. Fish with gill sores and worms in their stomach and gills have been seen in Teeth Creek. In general, the fish are smaller and much softer, and many have been found with yellow stomachs and in some cases deformed. In Silver Lake, dead fish have been seen floating in the water. An example of declining population is Delkus Lake where there used to be a good fish population, but where now there are no fish at all.

Plants:

Gathering plants such as wild vegetables and berries and various herbs and medicinal plants is an important part of the TLFN and TKD way of life. However, there is fear that the chemicals from herbicidal spraying as well as other industrial activities such as mining make gathering plants unsafe. Furthermore, it is becoming more difficult to locate important plant species. For example, an interviewee noted that medicinal plants are gathered in old growth forests and cannot be found in the new growth forest. Berries are now scarce and don’t grow to be as big as they used to be; they are “dried up.”

3. Human health Resource development (mining, logging, road-building etc.) results in various impacts on wildlife, fish and plants, as well as on human health. A major theme emerging from the interviews is that human health outcomes are poorer than ever, and people are noticing that there is a rise in diseases that never used to be present in their communities. For example, major increases in cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, asthma, high blood pressure, heart problems, and strokes are noted by the interviewees. Many people tell stories of how both elders and the younger generation have already passed away from cancer and other sicknesses, and it is widely believed to be caused by contaminated food (wildlife, fish and plants). Williston Lake Reservoir has caused a great deal of health problems, mainly from the fine dust particles that blow up from the beaches of the reservoir to contaminate the air in TKD. The dust storms in TKD have affected many people and there is a high rate of respiratory problems such as asthma, allergies, chronic coughing and head sores. The people of TKD and TLFN would like to see protection from chemicals that industries use. Overall there is fear of contamination, a noted health decline in humans and wild life, and a sense of powerlessness. Many people have indicated that they are very grateful to have a project undertaken to finally address their concerns about contamination.

Preliminary Findings from Quantitative Analysis Water and soil were sampled and analyzed for contents of 29 elements namely: silver, aluminum, arsenic, boron, barium, calcium, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, iron, mercury, potassium, lithium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, sodium, nickel, phosphorus, lead, antimony, selenium, silicone, tin, strontium, titanium, vanadium, and zinc. Many of these elements when present at elevated levels in the environment are associated with impairment of human, plant and animal health and in extreme cases can increase mortality. Preliminary results of the analyses were compared with the 2002 Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines for Agricultural Purposes for Soils and Irrigation Use for Water to assess the environmental health in many areas within the traditional food gathering areas in Takla Lake and Tsay Keh First Nation territories.

Results from both water and soil samples showed that some elements have concentrations higher than the Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines. For water samples, elements with concentrations higher than the Irrigation Use guidelines are aluminum, chromium and manganese. Sampling areas showing elevated levels of at least one of the above elements are Tsay Keh, Lovell Cove, Takla Lake, Bear Lake, Bulkley House, Cassa Lake, Bralorne Mine, Silver Mountain, Kemess, Driftwood River, and Baker's mine (Table 1). Other results for water samples show that arsenic, mercury, lead, antimony and selenium contents in some samples might higher than the guidelines. Further testing is required to confirm contamination at these sites. For soils, elements with higher concentrations than guidelines are boron, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, molybdenum, nickel, vanadium and zinc. The sampling areas with at least one of the elements is higher than guidelines are Tsay Keh region, Bulkley Landing, Leo Creek, Bulkley House, Kemess Down, Driftwood River, Lovell Cove and Baker's Mine (Table 2).

Please see attached tables Next Steps This phase of the project will conclude in April 2007. We will continue to work on completing the industry inventory and mapping the results. We will develop a map that shows the sampling sites and areas of use. This part of the project will include training two individuals – one from each community – to do simple mapping and geographic information systems (GIS). Another capacity building component of the project will be to work on a website that will provide information about this project. Two band members will also take part in this aspect of the project. We will seek applications from band members who are interested in becoming involved.

The Healthy Land Healthy Future project could consist of multiple year phases. We have applied for continued funding and if our application is approved for 2007/2008, we will sample animal and plant tissue and do more soil and water sampling throughout the traditional territories. It will also include other concerns raised by the TLFN and TKD on environmental issues. For example, oral histories regarding historical environmental change will be compiled from the bands current inventory and a quantitative analysis of the interview transcripts will determine the degree that people depend on traditional foods. Overall, we will seek to determine if there is a relationship between areas of contaminants, areas of hunting, fishing, trapping, and gathering and health issues.

Quotes of Interest from Interviewees

The people of Tsay Keh Dene and Takla Landing are passionate about their land, their way of life, and their ability to pass this knowledge on to the next generation. The following list is an example of what people had to say about their territories. The pictures are of people we have spoken with throughout the summer who are currently hunters and trappers.

‘The mining companies should realize that they are contaminating the land and animals, As they are contaminating the animals us humans are getting that contamination from the animals and our land.’ (E-D2, TL-HLHF-21) ‘Contamination to the lake will destroy the fish which is 50% of my diet.’ (E-D4, TLHLHF-09) ‘There is a lot of traffic in this area because of the mining, and also transportation with the low beds (trucks) in the area. I’ve noticed that the water from the creeks and streams are drying out, maybe it could be effects from using the creeks for mining?’ (E-B3, TLHLHF-20).



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