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Run to Ottawa puts a spotlight on BC coal industry, drinking water advisories

Ultra-marathoner Caribou Legs is now in Revelstoke, B.C. On his Facebook page, Caribou Legs posted a video of a train shipment of coal that he saw just after Sicamous – 72 kilometres from Revelstoke – on the bridge overpass.

(Photo by Bradley Caribou Legs Firth, Three Valley Lake, Revelstoke, B.C.)

The Council of Canadians has highlighted that British Columbia has roughly ten active coal mines and many more in development.

CBC has reported, “The Coal Association of Canada says 90 per cent of Canada’s coal deposits are located in western provinces, and about 80 per cent of Canada’s coal exports are shipped through B.C.”

Communities in B.C. have opposed coal plants because of air pollution and water contamination. Coal mining can contaminate ground water and local water ways. Heavy metals, toxic elements and other toxins can be found in coal mine wastewater.

The Council of Canadians Comox Valley chapter has been opposing the Raven coal mine for almost five years and, along with other groups like CoalWatch Comox Valley, recently celebrated the withdrawal of Compliance Coal Corporation’s application.

Revelstoke issued a boil water advisory on June 5, 2015 that was lifted two days later. While it was issued because of a burst pipe and considered low risk, the report On Notice for a Drinking Water Crisis in Canada noted 1,838 drinking water advisories were in effect as of January 2015. There were 1,669 drinking water advisories in communities across Canada and 169 drinking water advisories in 126 in Indigenous communities.

There are routinely over 100 drinking water advisories in Indigenous communities at any given time. Communities like Shoal Lake 40 has been under a boil water advisory for over 18 years. Kitigan Zibi has been under a ‘do not consume’ order for over 17 years because of uranium contamination.

The reasons for the advisories included source water contamination, inadequate disinfection or treatment, unacceptable microbiological quality, water quality failing to meet Canadian Drinking Water Standards.

The report also showed the lack of detailed, available and consistent information across the provinces, territories and Indigenous communities. Fracking, pipelines, agriculture runoff and other water issues all pose a threat to clean, safe drinking water. Canada urgently needs an updated national water policy that addresses current threats, recognizes and implements the human right to water and includes national, enforceable drinking water standards.

Caribou Legs will continue his run to Ottawa to draw attention to the need to protect our lakes and rivers and plans to arrive in Golden, B.C. on Sunday. Learn more here.

Here are 4 things you can do to support Caribou Legs’ run and #pledge2protect our lakes and rivers:

1.    Run with Caribou Legs! (see his itinerary posted to the right here)

2.    Tweet a photo of your unprotected lake or river to @pmharper and @ec_minister (For a list of unprotected lakes, go here). Don’t forget to send it to @CouncilofCdns and webmaster@canadians.org too.

3.     Sign the petition!

4.    Donate! (every dollar goes directly to fund public education and advocacy around this campaign. You can even chip in to help cover food and lodging costs for Caribou Legs’ journey!)