STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Birds should move to Quebec –

Posted by mhudema on July 8, 2008

Birds should move to Quebec

Up the creek
Vancouver’s 2010 Olympic Committee has created a new event called dodge the pathogenic disease. The popular waterfront area, False Creek, which starts on the eastern end of English Bay draws visitors and locals alike. The public promenade and shops on Granville Island are definite draws but it’s probably the marina and public moorings that are the most popular. Recreational boaters, rowers, kayakers and dragon boaters flock to the area.

Apparently False Creek has a fecal count of 2,900 per 100 millilitres of water – normally beaches are closed when it hits 200 per 100 millilitres. But since Vancouver’s Public Health says “False Creek is not classified as a Primary Contact Recreational Water Body (i.e. it is not a swimming/bathing beach)” the agency is just advising people to stay out of the water.

What polluted the bay? Apparently all the “green” construction for the 2010 Olympic Village has put stress on the infrastructure and urban aquatic systems. A backwater valve got stuck in the open position allowing raw sewage to pour into the water.

“Construction creates sediment — developers are supposed to retain it all (with structures such as sediment fences) but that’s almost impossible,” said Hans Schreier, a professor at the University of B.C. who specializes in storm water pollution.

“There are also illegal connections — a developer looks for the nearest pipe, and sometimes it’s the storm water pipe and not the sewer pipe, then they just hook the new plumbing in.”

Exposure to fecal matter can result in ear infections, typhoid fever, Hepatitis A, dysentery, viral and bacterial gastroenteritis, and hepatitis A.

Dead ducks
You don’t want to go swimming in Alberta either. Last April, Canadians were shocked at the images of ducks dying simply from landing on an open pond. It turned out the pond was filled with the toxic sludge of an oil sands tailings pond operated by Syncrude Canada Ltd. The company immediately apologized but when the images of the dying fowl were broadcast around the world there was an international uproar.

The Alberta government just finished its investigation last Friday but no decision has been paid whether or the charges will be passed along to Alberta Justice. The maximum penalty under the under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act is a $1-million fine.

Syncrude stands by its initial statement claiming this was the first large scale bird death in 30 years of operation. But the Boreal Songbird Initiative begs to differ.
“There’s a long documented history of bird deaths in tailing ponds,” said Dr. Jeff Wells, Sr. Scientist for the organization and fellow from Cornell University.

Research from the Boreal Songbird Initiative has determined:

  • At least 15 species of waterfowl have already been documented as having been killed on Syncrude Tar Sands tailings ponds along with an amazing 22 species of non-waterfowl.
  • In 1970s research started a once a week surveys of two Syncrude tailings ponds observed at least 100-300 birds killed annually. There were probably more birds that weren’t counted because they had sunk into the tailings.
  • Research has documented tens of thousands of waterfowl and other wetland-dependent birds migrating over in periods of weeks during spring and fall migration. Most likely to land on the ponds at night, under weather conditions that restrict visibility, making it difficult to know how many were killed.
  • “While this is truly a sad event, these deaths are a drop in the bucket, should the Tar Sands expand as planned. Over the next twenty years, pristine boreal forest bird habitat will be destroyed, leading to bird declines in the millions,” said Dr. Jeff Wells.

    Sounds like $1 million may not be enough of a fine. The ducks did ruin the P.R. campaign Alberta had planned for Washington bigwigs to convince them the Tar Sands are not that bad and the environmental end of things are all under control.

    At least the Pelegrines are okay
    The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is doing its bit for conservation in the Lower Laurentians. It’s purchased the entire eastern portion of the Quebec Prevost Cliffs. The 30 acres (12.5 ha) are located on the banks of the North River and is considered an exceptional natural area. The Prevost Cliffs are 10 metre in height and 1.5 km in length, still covered with forests and home to rare plants and many important bird species including the Peregrine Falcon. The surrounding town of St. Saveur, St. Adele and Prevost are popular locations for hiking and cross country skiing.

    “This land acquisition is important for NCC because it represents a major step in the conservation of the exceptional natural area of Prevost Cliffs”, said Nathalie Zinger, Vice-President for NCC. “NCC intends to establish a protected area, taking into account biodiversity protection and outdoor activities. Access may be prohibited in some sectors to protect endangered species. But otherwise, hiking and cross country skiing paths and climbing routes will be managed with the help of the City of Prevost and the Comité régional de protection des falaises (CRPF). Accordingly, visitors will be able to fully appreciate the ecological and unique characteristics of this remarkable area without threatening its integrity”.

    The purchase was made possible thanks to the support of major partners : the Canadian Government’s Natural Areas Conservation Program, the City of Prevost and the Fondation Hydro-Québec pour l’environnement.


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