Montanans and Idahoans Should Support Proposed Selenium Limits

It’s time to approve the proposed selenium limit and protect waters and fish in Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River

By Brad Smith

The Flathead Beacon recently published a letter written by Marcia Smith, Vice President of Teck Coal (no relation). Teck operates several mountaintop removal coal mines in the Elk River Valley, B.C. These mines are bleeding selenium into the Elk River and ultimately, Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River in Montana and Idaho. Selenium concentrations in these waterways have risen since the 1980s. Concentrations of selenium in fish exceed Environmental Protection Agency thresholds. If Montana and Idaho do not take matters into our own hands, then our water and fish will be harmed even more.

In her letter, Ms. Smith states that Teck is committed to a science-based limit on selenium pollution in the Kootenai drainage. She fails to mention that a six-year science-based process recently concluded, and that the Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s proposed limit on selenium pollution is based on the research that occurred over the course of the last six years.

Ms. Smith then states that only four of the seven members of the Selenium Technical Subcommittee (SeTSC), which was charged with recommending the selenium pollution limit, voted to advance the process. Again, Ms. Smith fails to mention that three of SeTSC members were scientists that recused themselves because they were directly involved in the research that led to the proposed limit.

Montanans and Idahoans should support the proposed limit on selenium pollution. A limit on the U.S. side of the border can be enforced in Canada through the Boundary Waters Treaty. Without the proposed limit, we can expect fisheries in Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River to be further harmed. Teck employs no one in Montana or Idaho except an obvious cast of elected officials and attorneys. Yet we receive all their pollution.

It’s time to approve the proposed selenium limit and protect waters and fish in Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River.

Brad Smith
North Idaho Director
Idaho Conservation League

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