Thursday, December 17, 2009

Study says Canadian oilsands pollution exceeds official estimates

EDMONTON, Alta. - An independent study suggests pollution from Alberta's oilsands is nearly five times greater and twice as widespread as industry figures say.
The study says toxic emissions from the controversial industry are equal to
a major oil spill occurring every year. Government and industry officials
say contamination in area soils and rivers is natural, but the report links
it firmly to oilsands mining.
"We found rather massive inputs of toxic organic compounds by the oilsands industry to the Athabasca River and its tributaries," said David Schindler, a co-author of the study. "The major contribution to the river was from industry."
The study, published Dec. 14 in the U.S.-based Proceedings of National
Academy of Science, also takes direct aim at Alberta's monitoring program.
"Our study confirms the serious defects of the (regional aquatic monitoring
program)," it says. "More than 10 years of inconsistent sampling design, inadequate statistical power and monitoring-insensitive responses have
missed major sources of (contamination) to the Athabasca watershed."
The report is the latest to question official figures and point out the industry's environmental costs - from acid rain to reduced songbird populations.
In the summer of 2008, Schindler's team set up monitoring stations on the
Athabasca and several of its tributaries. Some stations were upstream of both the oilsands and facilities, others were in the middle of the deposits
but upstream of industry and still others were downstream of both.
It found petrochemical concentrations did not increase until the streams flowed past oilsands facilities, especially when they flowed past new construction.

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