Drier weather helps RDCK get upper hand at former HB Mine property south of Salmo
Drier weather Wednesday has helped the crews get the upper hand on see sloughing and seepage at the former HB Mine tailings pond south of Salmo according to the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) Emergency Operations Centre.
“If we would have had more rain today or in the immediate forecast the concerns would be a lot higher,” Bill Macpherson of the Emergency Operations Centre told The Nelson Daily Wednesday.
“Obviously there’s still a concern because there’s water flowing through but the engineers and geotechs have a fairly high confidence level given the weather and success they’ve had a reducing pressure on the earth and dam that when things dry out they’ll be able to get the equipment to get some rock in place to where it is seeping.”
During routine checks Tuesday at the former HB Mine property, crews noticed the heavy rains this week combined with creek and river inflows had put pressure on the earth dam, allowing seepage at from some sections.
Macpherson said geotechnical engineers installed three pumps to decrease the level in the tailings pond as a first step.
Additional larger diameter pumps and siphoning hoses were en route to continue to reduce water levels along with the deepening of an outlet channel.
Several excavators have also been brought in and will work at in-filling areas of seepage when able to be deployed safely.
“In the short term the goal is to get some rock and fill in place to ensure nothing is getting out,” Macpherson explained.
“We want to draw (levels) down with additional pumps and siphoning hoses until such time it’s safe to get equipment in to some infilling in places where there’s seepage.
“That should happen in the next few days.”
The HB Mine property, decomissioned 30 years ago and purchase by the RDCK in 1998, is located east of Highway 3 and 6, and south of Emerald Road, south of Salmo towards the Kootenay Pass summit.
Environmental monitoring and reporting is ongoing and 24 hour security has been implemented at the site.
Macpherson said residents who could be affected should there be a structural failure at the HB Mine property have been notified by the RCMP.
While the drier weather may be good for the HB Mine property hotspot, hotter temperatures may only increase the runoff into Kootenay Lake, raising already record levels.
The latest forecasts suggest Kootenay Lake might reach 1754.4 feet, dependent on the weather and inflows.
“Kootenay Lake still continues to rise which is a bit of a concern,” Macpherson said.
“The province had authorized us setting up a couple of firefighting crews with a sandbag machine to fill sandbags.”
“This is especially for older people or people in poor health that can’t actually sandbag property,” Macpherson adds. “These crews will be able to assist those residents as well as offering full sandbags to residents who need them.”
Sandbags are available at the Balfour and North Shore Fire Halls, starting at 8 a.m. Thursday.