Study identifies oil sands polluting Alberta river system

Oil sands operations are polluting the Athabasca River system, researchers say, contradicting the Alberta government’s assertions that toxins in the watershed are naturally occurring.

In a study likely to add more fuel to the environmental battle over oil sands development, researchers said mercury, arsenic, lead and cadmium are among the toxins being released into the Athabasca, which flows north through the region’s major oil sands operations.

The findings of the study, co-authored by University of Alberta biological scientists Erin Kelly and David Schindler, should be a signal for the Alberta government to finally consider limits on oil sands development, Schindler said.

“I really think it’s time to cut down the expansion until some of those problems and how to reduce them are solved,” he said in an interview.

The environmental impact of developing the oil sands, the biggest reserves of crude outside the Middle East, has been a topic of snowballing controversy in Canada and around the world. The Alberta government has devoted millions of dollars to defend the multibillion-dollar industry.

The latest research is published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A government-supported agency, called the Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program, has published material as recently as 2009 saying that water quality in the Athabasca River was similar now to conditions before oil sands development. But Schindler said the RAMP monitoring and findings “violate every rule” of long-term study and his research showed the opposite.

Looking in from the outside, knowing something of comparable questions of geology, I have to wonder about the construction of the tests instituted by the government. I question why the insurgent study is after the fact; but, that often is grounded in questions ranging from finances to time constraints. The Alberta government had beaucoup time to produce definitive studies that would have/could have passed peer review. Obviously they haven’t.

Too often the quotient of short-term economic gain influences voters as thoroughly as it does politicians. I can’t hazard an opinion of comparative testing procedures and results – this morning; but, unless Canadians have bred some new species of human being that wants badly to be a politician in North America, questions take precedence over answers received, so far.

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One comment

  1. unnikrishnannair

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