Monday, August 30, 2010

Tar sands industry pollutes the Athabasca

Elevated levels of toxins found in Athabasca River
Finding refutes long-standing claims that water quality hasn't been affected by oil sands development

Globe and Mail: The study, to be published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the oil industry 'releases' all 13 of the United States' Environmental Protection Agency's so-called priority pollutants, including mercury and lead, into the Athabasca at concentrations that are higher near industry during the summer. In winter, before a melt, only levels of mercury, nickel and thallium were elevated near industry.

Overall levels of seven elements -- mercury, lead, cadmium, copper, nickel, silver and zinc -- exceed those recommended by Alberta or Canada for the protection of aquatic life, it said, concluding the 'oil sands industry substantially increases loadings' of toxins into the river...

Simon Dyer, oil sands program director for the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank based in Calgary, praised the report... 'It does make the research 'make the Alberta government's claim, that there is no pollution downstream of those sites, increasingly untenable.'... Joe Obad, associate director of Alberta advocacy group Water Matters, called the study 'the most detailed, independent, peer-reviewed work we have seen so far on mercury and lead' in the oil sands.
Image source here.