Government looks at oilsands water release into Athabasca River

In Canada where ecocide becomes routine…

The Syncrude oilsands extraction facility is reflected in a tailings pond near the city of Fort McMurray on June 1, 2014. JASON FRANSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The provincial and federal governments have partnered with oil giant Syncrude to assess whether treated wastewater from Alberta’s oilsands could be released into the lower Athabasca River.

The pilot project is looking at just how toxic water is after it has been treated following use in the oilsands.

It’s also examining better monitoring of the lower Athabasca, and modelling to predict potential environmental and health effects if treated water is released into the river.

John Muir, communications director with Alberta Environment and Parks, said the department’s chief scientist Fred Wrona created a team of experts to “provide credible scientific information and advice” over the two-year pilot.

Those experts come from academia, industry, the Alberta Energy Regulator, the federal Environment and Climate Change Canada office, and Indigenous communities.

“We’ll examine the science when developing regulations for releasing treated water from oilsands processes,” Muir wrote in an email.

‘Toxic tailings … need to be cleaned up’

Alberta’s regulatory system allows for the release of treated industrial and municipal effluents, but Muir said they would need to be adapted if treated oilsands water is to be released. MORE

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