Oil sands water impact report nixed

by Milan on July 16, 2010

in Oil sands, Water pollution, Wildlife

Two weeks ago, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development of Canada’s Parliament abruptly cancelled a report on the impacts of oil sands development on water. Andrew Nikiforuk has written an article for The Tyee arguing that the risks are serious and regulation has been inadequate.

Special concerns have been raised about naphthenic acids – toxic substances that was nonetheless excluded from the list of toxic or harmful chemicals examined by the report. These substances take decades to break down, and have been shown to harm liver, heart, and brain functions in mammals, as well as harm wildlife.

All this is another example of how – after you tally up the health, environmental, and climate impacts – the oil sands are far less of a wealth generator than they appear to be. Rather than release a report that would deepen the awareness of Canadians on that issue, the committee has opted to cancel it and destroy all the drafts.

[Update: 5:17pm] I have written letters opposing this decision to the chair and vice-chairs of the committee: James Bezan, Bernard Bigras, and
David J. McGuinty. As always, any Canadian MP can be mailed for free at: House of Commons; Parliament Buildings; Ottawa, Ontario; Canada; K1A 0A6. The phone numbers for MP offices are also online.

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. August 30, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Elevated levels of toxins found in Athabasca River

Finding refutes long-standing claims that water quality hasn’t been affected by oil sands development

Josh Wingrove

Edmonton — From Monday’s Globe and Mail Published on Monday, Aug. 30, 2010 3:00AM EDT Last updated on Monday, Aug. 30, 2010 11:26AM EDT

A study set to be published on Monday has found elevated levels of mercury, lead and eleven other toxic elements in the oil sands’ main fresh water source, the Athabasca River, refuting long-standing government and industry claims that water quality there hasn’t been affected by oil sands development.

The author of the study, University of Alberta biological scientist David Schindler, criticized the province and industry for an “absurd” system that obfuscates or fails to discover essential data about the river. “I think they [the findings] are significant enough that they should trigger some interest in a better monitoring program than we have,” he said.

The Athabasca has increasingly become a flashpoint for debate. Earlier this year, Environment Minister Jim Prentice dismissed Dr. Schindler’s previous peer-reviewed work as “allegations.”

Oil surfaces naturally in the Athabasca and its tributaries as the river erodes the bitumen below it. The government argues it is this, not industry, that is the main cause of the pollution.

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