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Posts Tagged ‘oil sansd’

Dirty Business: The Tar Sands of Alberta and Toxic Waste

Posted by mhudema on September 25, 2008

Dirty Business: The Tar Sands of Alberta and Toxic Waste

Dirty Business
The Tar Sands of Alberta and Toxic Waste

By Andrew Nikiforuk; September, 21 2008 – Znet

Fred McDonald, a Métis trapper and storyteller extraordinaire, often questioned the reasoning and science behind the proliferation of toxic ponds and end-pit lakes. Before he died in 2007 of kidney failure, McDonald lived in Fort McKay, an Aboriginal community 72 kilometres north of Fort Saskatchewan. The stench of hydrocarbons from the surrounding mines often hangs heavily in the air there, and in 2006, an ammonia release from a Syncrude facility hospitalized more than 20 children.

On a fall day in 2006, McDonald sat in his kitchen, sipping a glass of rat root juice (“It’s good for everything,” he told me) and breathing through an oxygen tube. The day before, he had spent several hours on a dialysis machine. McDonald’s kidneys were failing but not his mind. He recalled the days when Tar Island was a good place to fish and hunt. (Tar Island was so named by local Cree and Métis after the bitumen that often oozed down its banks. In the late 1960s, Suncor transformed the island into a tailings pond, the first in the tar sands.) “It always had moose on it. We loved that island. We are slowly losing everything.”

McDonald was born on the river, and he had trapped, fished, farmed and worked for the oil companies. He fondly remembered the 1930 and 1940s, when Syrian fur traders exchanged pots and pans for muskrat and beaver furs along the Athabasca River. Families lived off the land then and had feasts of rabbit. They netted jackfish, pickerel and whitefish all winter long. “Everyone walked or paddled, and the people were healthy,” McDonald said. “No one travels that river anymore. There is nothing in that river. It’s polluted. Once you could dip your cup and have a nice cold drink from that river, and now you can’t.”

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