Fish Kill Incidents: Quebec government released its findings

On August 15, the Minstère de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre le changement climatique announced that power station operator Brookfield was responsible for this summer's four fish kill incidents on the Lièvre River. Below is our response to this latest development.

The Québec government released detailed information to substantiate its findings that the dam operating on the Lièvre River was responsible for this summer’s fish kill incidents. After carefully reviewing this information, we see no reason to doubt the government’s findings. Particularly convincing was new information released about the lab results, showing that some of the dead fish were found with gas bubbles in their tissues, a telltale sign of supersaturation, which is the mechanism at play here. We are relieved that the government managed to get to the bottom of this.

Since day one of these incidents, we have been in regular contact with many of the stakeholders in the area, including Brookfield*, the dam operators. While there’s absolutely no reason to believe that Brookfield was aware that their operations were causing these incidents, ultimately their operations did cause significant impacts on fish. We expect that the authorities will impose consequences commensurate with the company’s responsibility here.

Looking forward, we have the following observations

  • We are carefully reviewing responses by the different authorities involved in this matter over the last weeks, and will be issuing recommendations at a later date. These will include observations on the clear need for increased transparency and timely information sharing between authorities with jurisdiction on the Ottawa River.
  • There have been significant impacts to fish in the Lièvre River. We believe that mitigation and compensation measures need to be put in place. The company has already signaled its intention that it is open to these measures, and Ottawa Riverkeeper is ready to contribute its expertise to help develop them.
  • We need to learn from what happened here. Supersaturation causing thousands of dead fish is a very unusual occurrence in this context, and we need to make sure that findings from expert analysis are shared broadly so that this can be avoided at this facility and at others in the watershed and beyond.

You can read the notice that the government sent to Brookfield (in French only) here.

If you’d like to support the work Ottawa Riverkeeper has been doing on this issue, please consider making a donation here.

* Evolugen is the new identity for Brookfield Renewable Canada’s business.

4 responses to “Fish Kill Incidents: Quebec government released its findings”

  1. Chris Purdy says:

    Ok – the “good” news is that there was, apparently, no spill or release of a toxic chemical that caused the die off. However, the explanation of why the water became “supersaturated” doesn’t make sense to me. Only 2 years ago, we saw virtually the same “extraordinary” levels of flooding on the Ottawa River, and its tributaries including the Lievre. However, there were no fish kills. Presumably, similar levels of debris that required Brookfield to undertake the process that resulted in this years die off, also existed in 2017. What changed this year?

  2. Larry Wong says:

    Generally home aquariums are susceptible to supersauration with a faulty pump. But the supersaturation can also happen at hydroelectric dams other industries along bodies of water.
    http://ceqg-rcqe.ccme.ca/download/en/176
    In such Canadian Envionmental quality guidelines are published. Although not a standard, the company contravened the Quebec Environment Act and the Fisheries and Ocean Act by killing aquatic life.

  3. Henry Blaszczak says:

    can you believe that after all the dead fish found in the river, their investigation came down to “bubbles?”
    Henry.
    In which case, the fish should have been edible if it was, unfortunately, the birds that feasted on the fish, must have also swallowed too many bubbles.

  4. Claude A. Garneau says:

    So, are the fish in the area of, and downstream from, the Lièvre, safe to eat?

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