Letters: Analyze first

Each week Sooke News Mirror readers express themselves on the Letters to the Editor pages

Mr. Hicks’ campaign promises are interesting.I will direct this letter to only one; his promise to re-introduce pink salmon into Jordan River. As a retired chemist with some experience in dealing with pollution, I’d like to ask this candidate if he is aware of certain factors that might affect this re-introduction.

First, abandoned mines are notorious for producing water pollution for decades after mining has ceased. The ore body at this particular site was made up largely of chalcopyrite, a sulfide that contains both iron and  copper. Such deposits usually contain  small amounts of other sulfides, such as that of arsenic.

Air, in the presence of a little moisture, slowly converts these sulfides to water soluble chemicals. The sulfur forms sulfurous acid,which is then converted to sulfuric acid. This process results in the well known acid mine drainage which is fish toxic. Arsenic is very poisonous, even in extremely low concentrations.

Copper is also toxic to fish. This toxicity is greatly enhanced because the soluble form of copper sticks to fish gills; salmon are thus asphyxiated. These effects are evident even when concentrations are in the one to three parts per million range.

When the first fall rains start, a significant amount of these toxic chemicals is flushed into the nearest watercourse. That is, the toxicity is greatest when salmon are heading upstream to spawn.

Some friends and I visited one of the tailings dumps beside Jordan River a few months ago. Still, several decades after mining stopped, conifers were showing significant evidence of toxicity. They were stunted- just a few cm. in height, and they were a sickly yellow-green colour.

To the best of my knowledge, pink salmon are less ‘stream specific’ than other types of salmon. That is, a finite chance exists of them straying up a stream other than the one in which they were hatched. Other salmon spawning streams exist in the area. That is, if the water in Jordan River were clean enough for fish to use, then they would have, in all probability, have re-established a spawning run on their own.

Perhaps, before Mr. Hicks were to embark on a costly experiment such as this one, he should have a few water samples analyzed during the early fall rainy period, and he should consult with a fisheries biologist.

Dale W. Read

East Sooke