STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Toxic Water

Posted by mhudema on May 29, 2008

Warning sounded on toxic water
Liberal critic blasts ‘hollow reassurances’

A study showing more than five million litres of toxic tailings pond water are leaching daily out of a pond next to the Athabasca River demonstrates that the Alberta government has lost control over oilpatch pollution, says a biologist.


But according to Premier Ed Stelmach, oilsands opponents are scaremongering over what will likely turn out to be minor emissions, upstream from the Northern Alberta community of Fort Chipweyan – something he hopes a province-wide study of the ecological impacts of heavy industry will confirm.

He said the province will pursue action against Suncor, the oilsands giant, if the leaching has exceeded tolerable legal limits.

“During the election period, when we were in Fort McMurray, I had a member of the First Nations deliver a report to me. I didn’t see it personally but … I made a commitment to the gentleman that what we need here is a baseline study.”

That would be followed by impact studies to show how much that baseline has shifted over decades of development, said Stelmach.

Dr. Kevin Timoney provided the Suncor-commissioned report from November 2007 to the Alberta Liberals after receiving it at a public presentation for Fort Chip residents; in 2006, Timoney found elevated levels of heavy metals, arsenic, volatile organics and other cancer-causing agents in a study of the river’s water quality.

“They owe an apology to all Albertans,” said Liberal critic Dr. David Swann, calling the government’s position to date “hollow reassurances from a government with its head in the sand.

“This is clearly a government that doesn’t want to admit to what scientists have already been telling us about the potential impacts on environment and health. It’s also threatening the industry, the biggest impact on sustaining our economy.”

Timoney believes the leaks may contribute to cancers. His findings were rejected by the provincial government, which says it has not seen any impact on river life – a position the Suncor report agrees with, noting most of the polluted groundwater is contained before it reaches the river.


“I would hope now that they would begin to address downstream health concerns more seriously, because they certainly haven’t up until now,” said Timoney.

“This has gone on for many years, and the groundwater there is directly connected to the Athabasca River, so to suggest that none of it is eventually reaching the river is not a sound position. It will eventually flow downstream, and you can connect the dots from there.”


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