SEATTLE -- A dam breach in northern Canada released billions of gallons of water tainted with mining leftovers, or tailings, into streams that lead to one of the world s most productive salmon rivers.

With the commercial sockeye fishing season opens Saturday on the Fraser River in British Columbia, there are fears Seattle fishermen may have to contend with heavy debris and maybe tainted water.

The dam held back a reservoir of tailings from the Imperial Metals mine near likely British Columbia.

On Monday a wide section of the dam collapsed, allowing almost the entire reservoir to rush down streams and through forests depositing a mountain of debris along the way.

Imperial released a statement saying the water isn t acidic, but regulators have recorded elevated levels of toxic chemicals in the reservoir in the past. They said they also issued the mine several warnings concerning the safety of the dam and the levels behind it.

Canadian authorities are expected to sample water from the Fraser and its tributaries as the flow continues.

Imperial said it is prepared to begin cleaning up damage.

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