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Ask Slashdot: Can Tech Help Monitor or Mitigate a Mine-Flooded Ecosystem?

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the you'l-lbe-stone-dead-in-a-moment dept.

Earth 123

An anonymous reader writes "The dam break which flooded toxic mining sediments into Quesnel Lake, British Columbia will affect the food web of a very important fisheries ecosystem for many years to come. Here is the challenge; I am asking the people here to come up with suggestions for new and inventive ways to monitor and or help mitigate this horrendous ecological disaster. A large portion of a huge world famous food and sport fishery is at stake. The challenges ahead will take thinking outside the box and might not just be effectively done by conventional means." What would you do, and what kind of budget would it take?

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What would I *not* do? (0)

Nutria (679911) | about 3 months ago | (#47643205)

Ask Slashdot. Instead I'd go to forums where actual field ecologists -- the ones who actually go out and sample water, etc -- to see what they suggest.

Re:What would I *not* do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643241)

Submitter likely did both. It takes less than a minute to post on /. once the question has already been written down, so why not take the small chance something helpful will come of it.

Re:What would I *not* do? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 3 months ago | (#47643407)

and how long does it take to go through all the comments and clicking all the goatse links?

Re:What would I *not* do? (2)

sillybilly (668960) | about 3 months ago | (#47644337)

Goatse.cx has been down for a while, but now you can see a more feminine version of goatse at http://www.xvideos.com/video13... [xvideos.com]

Re:What would I *not* do? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#47643291)

Ask Slashdot. Instead I'd go to forums where actual field ecologists -- the ones who actually go out and sample water, etc -- to see what they suggest.

Solutions don't have to come from field ecology. Here are two solutions:
1. Don't allow earthen dammed tailing ponds to be built upstream from pristine ecosystems.
2. Instead of mining gold, we should all switch to Bitcoins.

Re:What would I *not* do? (1)

gtall (79522) | about 3 months ago | (#47643335)

Gold is used throughout industry. Attempting to use Bitcoins in place of it would be a really neat trick.

Re:What would I *not* do? (4, Funny)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47643419)

I just bought Bitcoin-plated TOSLINK cables and the sound quality is fantastic!

Re:What would I *not* do? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 3 months ago | (#47643809)

That's a good one.

I don't see rappers wearing Bitcoin bling, although the grilles would be very interesting.

Re:What would I *not* do? (1)

amorsen (7485) | about 3 months ago | (#47643489)

We have way more gold in storage than we have an industrial or jewelry-related use for. The primary use for gold is to sit in Fort Knox doing nothing at all. Gold-coloured plastic would do that job just as well.

Re:What would I *not* do? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 3 months ago | (#47643813)

Ti think that's wrong. Isn't there a lot more gold used in jewelry in South Asia than is sitting in Ft Knox? I thought I'd heard that.

Re:What would I *not* do? (1)

CaptnZilog (33073) | about 3 months ago | (#47644827)

There's more gold in my mothers wedding ring than there is in Ft Knox.
Just ask the Germans what happened to their request for their gold stored in the US...

Re:What would I *not* do? (1)

Nutria (679911) | about 3 months ago | (#47644895)

Just ask the Germans what happened to their request for their gold stored in the US.

Are there any "THE GOLD IS MISSING WERE DOOOOOOOOMED!!!" sites that are not scaremongers?

Re:What would I *not* do? (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about 3 months ago | (#47644511)

Recent (several years) Congressional efforts to examine the contents of Fort Knox and other U.S. government gold reserves, and the gold of other countries that the US holds in trust, have been rebuffed. Germany has been refused access to its gold that is held by the U.S.

There is good reason to believe that for all practical purposes, Fort Knox is empty. The gold has either been stolen by groups within the US government, or used by the government itself to pay off overdue debts.

We are well and truly screwed.

Re:What would I *not* do? (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#47643533)

Gold is used throughout industry. Attempting to use Bitcoins in place of it would be a really neat trick.

Only 10% [wikipedia.org] of gold production goes to industry. The rest goes to either jewelry or investment. Much of the jewelry is sold in India, where it is used by families as a store of value. If India had a better banking system, the demand for gold might fall by quite a bit.

Re:What would I *not* do? (2)

jayrtfm (148260) | about 3 months ago | (#47643585)

Based on seeing the angst of my Indian friend when he was shopping for gold gifts for his family, there's a lot more cultural meaning than mere stored value.

Re:What would I *not* do? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 3 months ago | (#47643415)

Where will you get the gold used in all the chips in the computers to mine bitcoins?

Re:What would I *not* do? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#47643547)

Where will you get the gold used in all the chips in the computers to mine bitcoins?

There is enough gold sitting in vaults to last for centuries at current industrial consumption rates. After that, we can get more by mining asteroids.

Re:What would I *not* do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643367)

Yeah, but those people will tell you their ideas.

Getting other people to contribute? A bit tougher.

You may not learn anything, but given that the only cost is a few hours of time, the potential for return only has to be above zero.

Unless you're so busy you can't possibly spend the time, in which case, you already must have a solution.

Re:What would I *not* do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643631)

What i would not do is live around stupid people that allow other stupid people to do stupid things. This is not as easy as it sounds.

Re:What would I *not* do? (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about 3 months ago | (#47644803)

I would go to chemists and molecular engineers. If you consider the lake sufficiently toxic that you can not allow time to resolve all issues and draining the lack and digging out the toxic lake bed and disposing of it is too expensive, then review the toxic chemicals and see what stable harmless molecules they can be converted into by apply other less harmful chemicals in saturation that nature over time can bind up. Ecologists are just going to tell you don't do it, for good reason. Large earth moving contractors of course will tell exactly how expensive it really is to clean up toxic waste spills 'properly'. You sort of have to suck it up. In being stupid enough as a community to allow it to happen, you have basically initiated a large scale chemistry experiment, how you deal with it becomes trial and error until it is resolved or you have spent all the money available to fix it with out actually fixing it.

Realistic answer is move and move far enough away that you reach a community that is smart enough to prevent it happening.

If only... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643211)

If only there were entire fields of research that dealt with precisely this sort of monitoring.

Tech solutions. Why tech? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643243)

Somtimes, tech isn't the answer. Smetimes, letting nature do her work is the answer.

We bald monkeys haven't been here that long and nature has a way of dealing with distructive forces.

Just say'in.

We misantropes have nature on our side.

Re:Tech solutions. Why tech? (1)

polar red (215081) | about 3 months ago | (#47643261)

some toxins can't be processed by biological systems. (and accummulates in (the food of)* our food) (that's called a time-bomb)

Re:Tech solutions. Why tech? (1)

Noughmad (1044096) | about 3 months ago | (#47643395)

Why is this post in Lisp?

Re:Tech solutions. Why tech? (1)

bjwest (14070) | about 3 months ago | (#47643769)

It's not nice to point out someone's Lisp.

Re:Tech solutions. Why tech? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 3 months ago | (#47643819)

Unless they have nice plump red lisp like Algenina Jolei

Re:Tech solutions. Why tech? (1)

El Puerco Loco (31491) | about 3 months ago | (#47644593)

However,toxins can only be produced by biological systems and thus are irrelevant to the discussion of toxic mining tailings.

Re:Tech solutions. Why tech? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47645057)

what a load of BS. tell me how biological systems can produce heavy metals?

Re:Tech solutions. Why tech? (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 3 months ago | (#47644417)

I was just gonna say that. It's like after a volcanic eruption, how much would it cost to clean up all the lava and plant back the previous vegetation? Nickel, copper, arsenic and lead are not that bad, compared to, say, mercury, and a good volcanic eruption has just as much of that stuff. By the way they might have to load that lake water with rotten eggs, and some mild hydrogen sulfide conditions, that catches the arsenic as realgar, and all the copper as sulfide, though it's less effective with nickel and lead. But nickel is not that bad, and even lead is nowhere near as bad as methyl mercury. I don't know what the local fauna and flora would prefer though in the lake, to put up with the toxins themselves, of to put up with the hydrogen sulfide treatment instead, or any kind of chelation therapy treatment that also messes them up, and I think what's done it's done, and they'd like to be left alone, please. Just be careful next time.. Nature will find a way. What I'd like to know is what about them gazillion tons of toxins buried in every nations landfills, that are plastic lined, with holes on every one without exception, and groundwater leaks and river leaks? Who's gonna mine those and clean those up. In reality, we cannot environmentally afford cities, because of all the trash. If people lived as yeoman farmers, and there was no trash collection, there would be no trash, and people would find ways to reuse, like all the food waste recycled as manure instead of going into the trash like in a city apartment, or incinerate themselves in a hillbilly billow drum, like plastic and cardboard. Otherwise waste always fills the available space for it.

Flat Belly Forever (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643251)

my programme : https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

First I'd let it settle for more than a few days (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643253)

There's no quick and easy solution, so let the situation settle down and let real ecologists do their jobs as appropriate.

Heck, for all we know nature just might take care of herself as the sediments settle. Sometimes clean-up attempts just make things worse.

Molassis... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643271)

There used to be an environmental company here in the US that held a patent on in-situ treatment of chromium-6 comtaminated groundwater. They injected a heavy molassus syrup. This provided sugar for bacteria to eat, with a wee bit of sulfer. The net result was the bacteria ate the sugar and combined the Cr-6+ with the sulfur to form a highly insoluable sulfide.

This may work on several of the metals in the soup here.

Very low Toxicity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643279)

Every thing I have herd has said that the toxicity is very very low (drinking water safe) and that the sediment is the only real threat to fishery's. Go be bombastic somewhere else. This is a non disaster, disaster, nothing to see, move along.

Re:Very low Toxicity (2)

mark-t (151149) | about 3 months ago | (#47643375)

All the tests so far mean is that the any of the toxicity that is in the sludge that got dumped from the tailings pond isn't leeching into the water itself, because the pH balance is good enough. The silt itself, however, is still actually *IN* the water, and its presence may pose a longer-term threat to human life and wildlife in the region if it can't be cleaned up.

Re:Very low Toxicity (1)

srmalloy (263556) | about 3 months ago | (#47643727)

Exactly. The sludge that has entered the river and lake has not yet been converted into forms that permit ready uptake by plants (and from the plants to the fish and other animals in the lake and up the food chain from there). There's no assurance that it won't undergo that chemical change, and attempts to remove the sludge using current technologies are sloppy enough that, while they would remove most of the sludge, they'll spread the rest more widely.

Re:Very low Toxicity (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 months ago | (#47643583)

Remember "So long and thanks for all the fish"?

What happens if it's just 'so long'? Did you ever stop to thing about that?

Re:Very low Toxicity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47644743)

He asked about thinking outside the box. I'd normally comply, but I'm currently sitting inside a boxy room, typing into my computer box. Yet, there is a time honored method for humans to deal with biological disasters. It's called exodus. Get the heck out of the toxic area before you become toxic from all the crud you end up ingesting. Be sure to send a letter of thanks to the corporation who polluted...and remember the corporation IS a person, according to the Supreme Court, so they should be jailed.

I would (2)

future assassin (639396) | about 3 months ago | (#47643281)

throw the ones responsible into jail for a long ass time to make a nice example. You can't hide behind money and corporations. Take away enough of their profits to just keep them ging and keep the emplayees working.

Re:I would (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47643427)

But who do you throw in jail? The employees who are directly responsible for their actions, or their boss in his office who approved the work to be done, or the CEO at the top who did not care about the ecological danger?

Re:I would (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#47643581)

But who do you throw in jail?

Your list is not complete. Here are some more that can be added:
1. Politicians that accepted donations from the company, and passed legislation allowing the tailing pond to be sited upstream from a pristine ecosystem.
2. Regulators, inspectors, and bureaucrats that apparently didn't do their job.

E. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643665)

All of the above. Plus dissolve the company, maybe offering some of the better now un-employees jobs on the cleanup staff.

That would send a message about fuckups of this level, ensure this particular place is no longer a potential issue, and hopefully keep plenty of the workers employed until cleanup winds down so they can find work elsewhere.

E. (1)

labradore (26729) | about 3 months ago | (#47644787)

To go further down that road: All assets are immediately turned over to the government and used to fund cleanup and mitigation. The government becomes the most preferred creditor.

Re:I would (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 3 months ago | (#47643707)

But who do you throw in jail? The employees who are directly responsible for their actions, or their boss in his office who approved the work to be done, or the CEO at the top who did not care about the ecological danger?

Since there's an on-going investigation into it, and residents heard a loud explosion before hand, many people are thinking out there that this was the work of eco-terrorists. This wouldn't be the first time either, my sister lives in sour gas alley in Alberta. Back 10 years ago, there was a guy going around trying to blow up sour gas wells(H2S). For those that haven't ever worked in the oil industry, sour gas is nasty stuff. If it floods a low level area, you're usually dead before you know it hits you.

The ones (2)

future assassin (639396) | about 3 months ago | (#47643907)

from the company and gove that ingnored the warrning from the engineering company that built the project that the current setup wasn't future proof.

Re:I would (5, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | about 3 months ago | (#47643455)

throw the ones responsible into jail for a long ass time to make a nice example.

While I applaud the sentiment behind this, the "ones responsible" will be some poor schmuck low on the totem pole sacrificed to the god Mammon. Probably a janitor somewhere that would be blamed for throwing away an "important memo" on "please don't do that" which didn't exist anyway.

In an ideal world, emails would be pulled, phone records retrieved, evidence recorded, and those up top would be held responsible for this. And in a really ideal world, none of this would happen. But this isn't an ideal world and fines are "just the cost of doing business."

Look at what Duke Energy got away with. Look at what they all get away with.

>letting the corporation survive

No. That won't fix anything. It has come to the point that corporate death penalties actually have to start happening to light a fire under the asses of employees that would see their livelihoods taken away by higher-ups in the corporation through mismanagement, along with boards seeing their corporate governance (and cash that goes with it) taken away, and stock holders wiped out. Only then will there be any motivation for good corporate governance.

--
BMO

The plans of mice and men (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 3 months ago | (#47643645)

TFA doesn't say what caused the dam break, sometimes it's actually nobody's fault, ie: "shit happens". However the cause should be thoroughly investigated by forensic engineers and if it was negligence, then jail the negligent, which in the eyes of law is normally the principal engineer who signed off on the construction, "following PHB orders" is not a valid excuse in the eyes of the law.

Re:The plans of mice and men (1)

postbigbang (761081) | about 3 months ago | (#47643737)

There's a sufficient amount of "shit happens" that isn't benign neglect, rather the pernicious pursuit of profits without examining consequences, and they're huge.

Jail is forensic. This poster needs solutions. Are there filtration methodologies available? Ways of mitigating the pollutants? Something learned from tech fab by products that can help solve the problem? PHBs are now after the fact. Cool heads and geek examinations are what's needed. My advice: find a recovery methodology financed by the sale of assets or Crown Lands so as to rapidly build the infrastructure necessary to stanch the flow. How? With what? Good questions.

Re:The plans of mice and men (3, Informative)

russotto (537200) | about 3 months ago | (#47643803)

TFA doesn't say what caused the dam break, sometimes it's actually nobody's fault, ie: "shit happens".

Given that the previous engineering firm bailed out a few years ago with a letter [knightpiesold.com] that stank of CYA, I'm going to guess it's not that this time.

There is evidence (5, Informative)

future assassin (639396) | about 3 months ago | (#47643905)

There is evidence that the company ignored warrning from the engineering company that built the projects and the pond had to be fortified or there would be issues in the future. The engineering company says they let the management and the gov know there will be issues if things didn't get fixed. No one listened so they bailed before this hit the fan and eventually it did.

no, management is responsible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643763)

No smoking-gun emails are necessary. Everything that the corporation does is the responsibility of top management. Negligence, poor engineering, sloppy operations -- whatever the cause, management is responsible.

Re:I would (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47644071)

It has come to the point that corporate death penalties actually have to start happening to light a fire under the asses of employees that would see their livelihoods taken away by higher-ups in the corporation through mismanagement, along with boards seeing their corporate governance (and cash that goes with it) taken away, and stock holders wiped out. Only then will there be any motivation for good corporate governance.

I'm not opposed to this, but I'm not sure that it's nearly as effective as you make it out to be. If you give the death penalty to a corporation, it wipes away its obligations. For example, any union contract will disappear. All the property of the corporation will be sold at auction, possibly to a new corporation doing the same thing with the same management. Corporations are just a legal fiction to allow people to interact. It's best not to get too caught up in the legal fiction and forget that the people are what's important.

If this happens frequently, then corporations will just reorganize themselves so as to limit their exposure. They'll replace one large corporation with ten smaller corporations that interact via long term contracts. They'll pay out dividends immediately rather than reinvesting in the business.

The goal is to penalize the people who are actually making the bad decisions. Your penalty penalizes a large number of people a small amount each. It may even work against your goal. People might engage in riskier behavior because they might as well grab as much profit as possible before someone triggers the penalty. Because those who don't participate in the particular decision are punished as much those who do.

Re:I would (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47644301)

That is the answer. you jail the executives and board, as in ass rape prison not the club med prison, then you liquidate all company assets and use it to repair the damage, hiring the workers to do the job. All upper and middle managers get tazers to the taint by the employees they use to supervise while the cleanup happens.

All executives and Board members personal accounts are seized and spent to pay 2 years of severance pay to all the employees starting with the lowest paid employees first, plus paying for 2 years of full college education.

Once all the board and executives family fortunes are completely spent and they have been in hard prison for 5 years they will be allowed out. Televise all of this, including the CEO getting ass raped in prison. Make it loud and clear that anything worse than this is done by any company and the executives and board for the next company will be publicly executed with their families.

Overnight, all corporations will suddenly start operating based on honestly and integrity instead of profits.

Knee Jerk (2)

labnet (457441) | about 3 months ago | (#47643921)

NO mine wants a tailings dam to collapse. There are regular conferences on how to design the things and specialists who design them. NO CEO wants this to happen, because the cost reparations is horrendous, and contrary to what the comments have been like here, the bosses of these companies (well the ones I've know of) want to be good corporate citizens.
Mining has risks, and incidents like this will ne analysed and fed back into the future design models, and like all things in life, will improve over time.

Re:Knee Jerk (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 3 months ago | (#47644307)

So the CEO will dump his fortunes into fixing this? not a chance in hell.

Re:Knee Jerk (1)

El Puerco Loco (31491) | about 3 months ago | (#47644641)

Hmm, well I want to win the lottery. Even though I never play the lottery, I expect that the odds of that happening are a good deal more favorable than of a mining company being a "good corporate citizen." The road to hell and all that.

Re:Knee Jerk (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about 3 months ago | (#47644853)

B$. Psychopathic greed means getting as much in this quarter as possible, inflating the value of the company, inflating executive salaries to match and cashing in stock option while they are worth something and collecting a golden parachute when it all blows up. That is the modern norm, they don't give a crap about how many they bankrupt, how many lives are ruined, how much harm is caused or how many they kill. More money and power now, right now and screw the consequences and every one else.

They have corrupted the laws to ensure they can get away with it, they can hide behind layers of corporation to avoid prosecution. In cases like the all assets should be seized and those responsible should spend the rest of their lives in prison.

No Reference Data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643293)

Unfortunately, you're setting up for the classic "Oh my god, look at the data! it's horrible and we need more money!" scenario. By not having reference data from your new toys, you will be strongly motivated (financially) to make your new, higher fidelity data look as bad as possible while making inaccurate comparisons to previous data with different systems. Sure, you'll make an honest effort to calibrate it, but your natural inclination is to take the worst plausible case.

That being said, I would really like for fisheries to be monitored with a long-term echofinder so that we can get long-term high fideltidy data on fish movement, populations and size. I haven't seen much of it, but it seems that the fish finders are good enough now that it should be possible.

Re:No Reference Data (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 months ago | (#47643595)

Sonar fish counting works well for spawning fish in rivers. Salmon are typically counted this way because they all come up from the sea to spawn. Populations that live their entire lives in rivers or lakes would be much harder to count using this technique. Unfortunately, the only really accurate way to count the number of fish in a lake or pond is to dynamite it and count them as they float to the surface, subtract the number that stay floating and hope everybody else just has a headache.

Re:No Reference Data (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 3 months ago | (#47644415)

Old hand cranked phones are great for fishing, er fish counts.

You drop the wires in at opposite end of the boat, crank the generator while say 'hello fish, come on up' and they all float to the surface, stunned. You pick out the good eaters and the rest recover and swim away.

I mean the ranger counts the fish, sorry.

Has "Ask Slashdot" gone too far? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643311)

Yes. This is completely random.

Re:Has "Ask Slashdot" gone too far? (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47643429)

I suggest we submit that as an "Ask Slashdot" question.

Start with a prescription from Hipocrates: (4, Insightful)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 3 months ago | (#47643323)

First: Do no (more) harm

One of the lessons from the Exxon Valdez oil spill is that attempts to clean things up may make them far worse, while the ecology's toughness in the face of environmental changes is vastly underrated.

For instance: They did a major removal of oil from part of a beach. In the process they stripped the bulk of the lifeforms off, leaving essentially sand - mineral dust. In an adjacent section that was missed, the orgnisms did a fine job of consuming the oil that had spilled. (It seems sea life has to deal with seeped oil quite a bit, from natural sources. Some stuff not only handles it, but considers it a valuable resource.). After a couple years the un-cleaned beach was flourishing (though perhaps not with the same mix of populations as before). A picture of the boundary is impressive: Cut like a knife.

Granted disturbing mine tailings is a very different case. But similar rules apply: Will letting them settle to the bottom, where they can be processed over decades to geologic time, cause less harm than attempting to clean them up RIGHT NOW - which might keep them mixed into the water and produce a much larger, sustained, iinput of "toxic" minerals to the bulk of the waterway's biosphere?

Re:Start with a prescription from Hipocrates: (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 3 months ago | (#47643363)

Conversely, sudden nutrient imbalances are kind of a bad thing to an ecology a lot of the time. Deadzone's form from undersea oil spills becaue the anerobic organisms take over, eat all the oil, and kill off everything else. Then that windfall eventually runs out and they of course all die off.

Re:Start with a prescription from Hipocrates: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643541)

Why did you use an apostrophe for "deadzone's" but not spills or organisms?

Re:Start with a prescription from Hipocrates: (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 months ago | (#47643601)

The flaw with this analysis is the timeline. Yes, the short term impact on the cleaned beaches was pretty horrendous, but it remains to be seen how this plays out over time as the ecology recovers. It could well be that the cleaned areas actually had a closer return to pre-spill ecologies than the ignored beaches.

What we have done is to create an interesting, long term experiment.

'Always look on the bright side of life ....'

Re:Start with a prescription from Hipocrates: (4, Interesting)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 3 months ago | (#47644485)

The flaw with this analysis is the timeline. Yes, the short term impact on the cleaned beaches was pretty horrendous, but it remains to be seen how this plays out over time as the ecology recovers

Hear, hear. The "cleaned" beaches may come back closer to the original - after they've been repopulated by pioneer speecies and gone through the whole beach-equivalent of the succession to climax forest. The uncleaned beaches may get where they're going more quickly, but that may be somewhere other than where they started. And so on.

Maybe, once the toxins have been cleaned up by lifeforms in one case, the soil rebuilt and recolonized by successive populations of organisms in the other, they'll come back to what they once were. (Assuming the area hasn't been reshaped by then.) Maybe they'll come back as something else - like the "flip-flop" island of recent history: Lobsters ate the snails and kept their population down. A hurricane wiped out the lobsters. Attempts to recolonize by importing lobsters failed. Turned out the snail population boomed once the lobsters were gone and it got to where a newly introduced lobster would, within minutes, pick up enough snail riders to weight it down and eat IT, so now the ecology was stable in a different mode. So in either case the beach ecology may converge to a different equilibrium.

But there are sections of the Pacific Northwest where a natural phenomenon did something similar: Two glacers met along the front of the ice cap during the last ice age. When things finally melted they melted last, forming a dam holding back an ocean. When it finally melted through, the ocean poured through in that one spot. It scoured an area comparable to an eastern state down to bedrock, washing everything from topsoil to gravel to rocks to boulders off toward the Pacific. The area STILL is nearly as lifeless as the moon.

So my bet is the unwashed beach will reach a robust and stable exology in historic time. But I wouldn't be surprised if, even with lots of sea life washed up by wave action, the washed beach takes geologic time to make a similar recovery.

"Dam"ocles - tailings pond uphill from clean water (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643365)

Because as we all know, shit flows downhill, and then bioaccumulates upward in food chains

Um, um... Oh! Oh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643373)

3D printers, space colonies, space tourism, asteroid mining!!!

There! All solved!!!

NEXT!!!!

Re:Um, um... Oh! Oh! (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47643431)

You forgot Arduino and Bitcoin.

Re:Um, um... Oh! Oh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643459)

Oh and Elon Musk and an oscilloscope!

Humans aren't supposed to eat fish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643381)

But don't let that stop you. After all, you have a belief system to maintain.
No human being on Earth can swim and catch fish, on a reliable basis, with their bare hands and mouth, and then proceed to eat the fish with their bare hands and mouth. Such a human being would be viewed as a psychopath. Human beings aren't supposed to eat fish, therefore you don't have a problem.

Re:Humans aren't supposed to eat fish (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 3 months ago | (#47643423)

Another AC with a moronic statement. I guess you never heard of noodling [wikipedia.org] . By the way, there is a reason we make tools.

Re:Humans aren't supposed to eat fish (2)

ledow (319597) | about 3 months ago | (#47643425)

Despite the fact that it's a commonly-held belief in the scientific community that, at least in part, we walk because we were shore-based waders, that our brain development was linked heavily with consumption of fish and fish oils, and that there are still entire communities that with the help of a simple tool (a net, or even just a series of wooden stakes in the rivers/oceans), they can capture enough food to sustain themselves indefinitely?

Wanna take down a cow single-handed? Good luck. Seen what a carrot looks like before the modern age of fertilizers and heavy cross-breeding? Want to see the effort involved in turning wheat into something you can actually eat?

Don't talk bollocks.

Re:Humans aren't supposed to eat fish (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47643439)

How can you tell when fish goes bad, it smells like fish either way! "Mmmh this smells like a dumpster, let's eat it!" - Jim Gaffigan

Re:Humans aren't supposed to eat fish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643655)

I guess no human should wear cotton underwear either.

Try growing and harvesting and processing corn, (1)

jpellino (202698) | about 3 months ago | (#47643847)

wheat, soybeans, milk or eggs and eating same with your "bare hands and mouth". You think the line is drawn at fish?

laissez faire (1)

khallow (566160) | about 3 months ago | (#47643397)

Do nothing and monitor the situation for a few generations.

Make them pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643433)

Make industry pay to clean up it's "mistakes". Make it pay to restore the environment to the condition it was before they started. Make it pay for all the people affected, and their children, for years to come.

Then and only then will industry change and prevent this kind of crap in the future. No amount of 'monitoring' will ever fix anything.

Re: Make them pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643795)

Agree. Sieze the company from the owners and put it under public control, then fire the board and CEO and investigate then for environmental neglect.

The purpose is to give investors and company board a strong incentive to not cut corners in environmental issues.

Re: Make them pay (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about 3 months ago | (#47644561)

Nice deflection with euphemisms. "Public control" in your context is government control; and as soon as the publicity goes away you've created a self-perpetuating incompetent bureaucracy that will not do its job.

No! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643445)

I have plenty of "tech" to monitor anything you want.

What is the will behind it?Emmm? Eh?

Well, I've got a suggestion for next time at least (3, Insightful)

Immerman (2627577) | about 3 months ago | (#47643451)

It won't help for this disaster, but if you want to prevent it from happening again make sure all the CEOs and other management types who cut corners such that this failure could happen spend a healthy dose of time in prison. Ditto the environmental regulators who gave a passing grade to a high-risk situation. Maybe extract the clean-up costs from their personal assets as well - let's liquidate everything they own and garnish 75% of their income until all clean-up has been paid for or they die of old age. Because as long as the folks in charge can pocket their fat cost-cutting bonuses and then walk away unscathed from the consequences of their actions while a piece of paper (aka corporate charter) has its day in court this will just keep happening.

As far as this disaster is concerned I've got nothing non-obvious to contribute. My condolences to everyone downstream.

mitigation and education (1)

swschrad (312009) | about 3 months ago | (#47643611)

specifically, use reverse osmosis and other separation methods to get all the pollution out of the huge lake... and drop it in the living rooms of the board of directors of the company that caused the spill.

Image recognition (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643703)

My experience is in using biological indicators of water pollution in lakes at ex mining sites, specifically using macroinvertebrates. The problem is identifying each individual macroinvertebrate takes a huge amount of time, especially down to species level which is most useful, especially within lakes. If there was some way to speed up this identification with something like image recognition it would make detection and thus remediative action far more swift.

Copper - nasty! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643713)

According to Wikipedia the waste pond contained about 18,000 tons of copper and a few hundred tons of other elements. Typically, sulphide ore deposits will include cadmium, lead, and arsenic, all pretty toxic.

We take copper pretty much for granted, but it's compounds are actually quite toxic. With the large amounts present I would put measurement of copper contamination pretty high on the agenda, and look to setup an independent lab to measure copper compounds in the water entering the lake, along with cadmium and arsenic. If we're lucky, the anaerobic conditions in the pond will mean that most of the heavy metals will be locked up as insoluble sulphides, but we can't take this for granted.

The fine particulates which have already entered the lake water are out of our control, and the majority will settle out over the winter when there is very little water movement. The next big influx is likely to come with the spring thaw, so remediation efforts should focus on either excavating or stabilising the deposited material downstream of the pond before winter sets in. Thereby minimising the additional contamination when the snow melts.

Just my thoughts,

Keith.

Re:Copper - nasty! (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 3 months ago | (#47644239)

Uhmm.... I'm not sure what you're reading, possibly results of samplings taken in 2013, but I've been trying staying on top of this news myself, being a resident of BC, and to the best of my knowledge, nobody still has any idea what, exactly, was in the tailings pond yet. Incompetence writ large.

Fungi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47643783)

Call this guy http://www.fungi.com/about-paul-stamets.html
Saw him on TED, blew my socks off.
http://www.ted.com/talks/paul_stamets_on_6_ways_mushrooms_can_save_the_world

Crazy ideas (1)

russotto (537200) | about 3 months ago | (#47643845)

Determine the boundary of the contaminated-sediment area. Pump cement in there, to make toxic concrete. Once it sets up, pull it out.

A definitive answer to the headline question (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 3 months ago | (#47643871)

Can Tech Help Monitor or Mitigate a Mine-Flooded Ecosystem?

Yes, of course it can.

How? Oh, no idea. I'm just sure it can.

Take preventative measures instead (2)

penguinoid (724646) | about 3 months ago | (#47643983)

First, make the company clean up their mess, with a suitable plan signed off by some ecologists. Make sure the clean-up will 1) be better than doing nothing and 2) accomplish its objective.

Whatever money you want to spend to clean up a disaster like this would be better spent finding other potential disasters and making sure they don't happen, rather than donating your money to save a greedy corporation from their responsibility and encouraging other companies to save money by having suckers clean up their messes.

Happens All The Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47644249)

Seriously.

This happens all the time.

Get over it.

Take your penis out of your mouth and leave it alone for at least 30 minutes. Stop putting peanut butter on your penis. Stop putting honey on your penis. You are just making your situation worse.

The Slashdot answer.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47644275)

I have the answer. press start, reload last checkpoint, and then prevent the dam breaking.
Otherwise look up to see what cheats are available.

Pollutants? (1)

PPH (736903) | about 3 months ago | (#47644303)

In what form are they? In solution? That's a tough problem to solve. As particulates, it may be possible to separate much of them out.

Dam Polley Lake and divert its outflow through centrifugal separators*. That will concentrate the particulates, which can be sent to temporary holding ponds and further separation.

*I wonder if the availale head from Polley Lake can be made to drive some sort of cyclonic seperator without the use of other power input.

Yes, there are tech items that can help (3, Interesting)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 3 months ago | (#47644419)

Can Tech Help Monitor or Mitigate a Mine-Flooded Ecosystem?

Yes. The first tech to start out with is a motorboat, a Van Dorn bottle, and a sediment sampler. Then pick out a lab or two that are capable of testing for the things that might be in the water, particularly nickel, arsenic, lead, copper, TSS, phosphorus, and nitrogen. Take your water samples at several locations and depths using said motorboat with said Van Dorn bottle and sediment sampler.

Okay, okay, I was kinda being a smartass. I get it, you have 5 days to complete your detailed action plan, and in a desperate Hail Mary you're hoping somebody here will reply with, "I was just about to launch my Kickstarter project for my solar powered 3-D printed heavy-metal-cleaning-superdrone running Linux on Raspberry Pi! I'll UPS my prototype to you tomorrow!" But that's not gonna happen. I'm sure you've already hired consultants to write things like, "if levels of A are above B mcg/L then C will be done over D timespan, until levels of A drop below B, at which point E will be done." D and E may have to be investigated if you don't know what they are yet. That's about as good as you're gonna get at this point.

Don't forget that your spill probably didn't just contaminate the lake with the metals you dumped in it, but also normal things (i.e. nutrients) that tons of sediment contain that could have various biological effects such as algal blooms. In addition to supplying them with clean water, I hope your mining company also reimburses the residents of the area for the economic (both short term and long term) impact this incident is having on them. You've been reaping the benefit of the rewards, now it's time to pay the price of the risk.

Difficult (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about 3 months ago | (#47644573)

Quesnel Lake is 100 square miles, and the second deepest lake in Canada. If something has to be done that involves the whole volume of the lake or all of the lake floor, it's a very big project no matter how clever the solution.

Re:Difficult (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47644733)

Actually, having a nice deep lake might be helpful. If the stuff settles out to the bottom of the lake there's a decent chance it'll stay there indefinitely. The bigger problem is the stuff in shallow water/on land that could be got at by plants and introduced to the food chain.

Here's Two suggestions (3, Informative)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 3 months ago | (#47644589)

First suggestion:

There's been a lot of interest in using Zeolites to absorb heavy metal contamination in water. One specific experiment involved dragging a bag of zeolites through ocean water, the zeolites absorbed enough Thorium to be industrially useful as an ore (if there were a demand for Thorium, which there isn't).

I've found papers that indicate that Zeolites will absorb copper and lead, two of the contaminants listed for the Mount Polley disaster; chances are likely that zeolites would absorb the other contaminants as well.

Here's two papers to get you started:

http://www.yourncdinfo.com/cli... [yourncdinfo.com]

http://cnu.edu/arc/documents/p... [cnu.edu]

Second suggestion:

There's been some success in removing non-volatile organic pollutants from soil using steam injection. Essentially, sink a pipe into the soil, inject steam, cover the area with a tarp, and collect the steam/water as it percolates up through the soil. This method can be used to extract non-volatile organic components including tetra-ethyl-lead. (I found that last bit surprising, but this was directly confirmed to me by one of the scientists involved.)

Depending on the chemical nature of the contaminants (ie - solubility, polar/non-polar character &c) this might prove useful in decontaminating some of the mud slurry.

Here's a paper to get you started:

http://nepis.epa.gov/Adobe/PDF... [epa.gov]

And another suggestion (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 3 months ago | (#47644605)

Third suggestion:

Fungi can be used to remove heavy metal contaminants in flowing water. Place a bunch of fungi mycelium in sandbags in the water stream and the fungi will filter out the contaminants as the water flows through. Come back later, remove the bags and replace with a fresh batch.

Contact Paul Stamets' group over at Fingi Perfecti and see what their experts have to say. They might even have a product you could buy for the purpose.

Here's a paper and some contact info to get you started:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/s... [sciencedirect.com]

http://www.fungi.com/about-pau... [fungi.com]

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