Toxic Tar Sands: Scientists Document Spread of Pollution, Water Contamination, Effects on Fish

November 15, 2012 | By | 2 Replies More

Carol Linnitt, DeSmogBlog
Waking Times 

Today federal scientists from Environment Canada presented research at an international toxicology conference in the U.S. that indicates contaminants from the Alberta tar sands are polluting the landscape on a scale much larger than previously thought.

A team lead by federal scientist Jane Kirk discovered contaminants in lakes as far as 100 kilometers away from tar sands operations. The federal research confirms and expands upon the hotly contested findings of aquatic scientist David Schindler who, in 2010, found pollution from the tar sands accumulating on the landscape up to 50 kilometers away.

“That means the footprint is four times bigger than we found,” Schindler told Postmedia News.

Senior scientist Derek Muir, who presented some of the findings at Wednesday’s conference, said the contaminated region is “potentially larger than we might have anticipated.” The ‘legacy’ of chemicals in lake sediment gives evidence that tar sands pollution has been traveling long distances for decades. Samples show the build up of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, known to cause cancer in humans and to be toxic to aquatic animals, in 6 remote and undisturbed lakes up to 100 kilometers away from tar sands operations.

The pollutants are “petrogenic” in nature, meaning they are petroleum derived, and have steadily and dramatically increased since the 1970s, showing the contaminant levels “seem to parallel the development of the oilsands industry,” Muir said.

After the release of Schindler’s groundbreaking research on tar sands pollution in 2010 the Alberta government claimed the contaminants were naturally occurring and posed no risk to aquatic life.

However at today’s conference, the annual meeting of the North American Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Kirk discussed the long list of ‘priority pollutants‘ that accumulate in the region’s snow. Within 50 kilometers of the tar sands, snowpack contains numerous contaminants including dangerous neurotoxins, such as methyl mercury, that bioaccumulate in food webs. Kirk found priority pollutants in the air were 1.5 to 13 times higher at test sites within 50 kilometers of tar sands refineries, and highest within 10 kilometers.

Abstracts for Kirk, Parrott and Muir’s presentations can be found on pages 103 and 104 of the conference programme (pdf).

“We don’t really know the fate of the various metals including mercury as they go from snow, to melt water to run-off and then into the aquatic environment,” Muir told Postmedia.

The toxicity of melt water from snow falling in the tar sands region was researched by federal scientist Joanne Parrott, who also presented at the conference. Studying snow samples taken in 2011 and 2012 along the Athabasca River, Parrott found that the melt water was toxic to minnow larvae, even when diluted down to 25 percent. “The larval fish don’t do very well in that snow at all,” she said.

Parrott suggests melt water, once mixed with water from the Athabasca River, will no longer be toxic to minnows.

GMO Free Food Storage Snow melt, however, provides a significant amount of water to tributaries where fish hatch in the spring, says Schindler. “My big concern is that slowly because of mortalities at spring melt, that this will erode the fishery, killing off the embryos,” he told Postmedia, pointing to the abnormally low numbers of fish in the Muskeg River as a possible occurrence.

Parrott plans to expand her research to consider whether young fish in tributaries that feed the Athabasca River are affected by the pollution.

Schindler’s research has already highlighted the increasing incidence of fish deformity in areas downstream of tar sands operations, like Lake Athabasca. “I think what could happen is that the few embryos that manage to survive, deformed as they are, struggle down to Lake Athabasca,” he said, adding the fish look “so horrible” the First Nations who depend on them for survival will not eat them, even if they don’t have confirmed high levels of contaminants.

“I think that’s fair enough, they wouldn’t sell in Safeway,” Schindler commented.

The scientists’ presence at the conference is significant given the Harper government’s strict control of scientific communications surrounding the tar sands. Federal scientists were prevented from speaking with the media at the same conference in Boston last year.

An internal document uncovered by Postmedia instructed federal scientists to avoid answering media questions, saying “if scientists are approached for interviews at the conference, the EC communications policy will be followed by referring the journalist to the media relations…phone number. An appropriate spokesperson will then be identified depending on journalist questions.”

After Postmedia’s Mike De Souza released the internal document last week, Environment Canada made arrangements for the news agency to speak with both Muir and Parrott.

Postmedia’s Margaret Munro explains: “Environment Canada earlier this month said scientists were not available to comment on their findings of contamination around the oilsands. The department’s media office arranged this week’s interviews with Muir and Parrott after Postmedia News obtained details of the reports the scientists will present at the U.S. conference on Wednesday.”

As DeSmog covered in an earlier post, the Harper government’s heavy-handed treatment of federal scientists led to a mass demonstration this summer, where scientists and academics mourned the “Death of Evidence,” claiming “Stephen Harper Hates Science.”

The government’s strict communications policy is seen by some as an attempt to silence critics voicing science-based opposition to development of the tar sands.

~~ Help Waking Times to raise the vibration by sharing this article with the buttons below…

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Category: Activism, Business, Community, Earth, Environment, Governance, Money, Science, Society, Time & Space

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Jerry Reddy says:

    An interesting observation that has been overlooked buy all the nay sayers is the fact that the oil can be seen running out of the ground and into the river in the heat of summer. There are locations where the oil is within inches of the surface. The Lake Athabascan lake bottom is filled with oil from centuries of this oil flowing north. The scientific community is aware of the truth but chooses to ignore the truth on a continual basis. I worked in the region for 4 years and had the opportunity to travel most of it.I am always disappointed in the eco world where the people in charge are either communists or very ignorant of the truth.

    • carl says:

      When you are dealing with demons who hide the oil sands pollution or raise the level of the permissible level of radioactivity in food to 100 becquerels per kilogram (Japan) while in the United States the permissible level is 1,200.

      Do you best to protect your family, the ignorant placated masses with their Obama or Harper bumper stickers (amongst others) will be in for a surprise from the umpteen pitfalls that await them.

Leave a Reply

Must Watch Videos

3 Suppressed Technologies that Could Revolutionize Daily Life

3 Suppressed Technologies that Could Revolutionize Daily Life













Nick Bernabe, Earth We Are One
Waking Times

The US has a long history of suppressing technologies in an effort to help government aligned corporations extend their profits. This history dates back over 100 years which we will outline — in part — in this article.

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla, … More

September 20, 2014 | By | 3 Replies More
Link Found Between Food Allergies and Farm Antibiotics

Link Found Between Food Allergies and Farm Antibiotics













Dr. Mercola
Waking Times

Food allergies affect an estimated 15 million Americans, including one in 13 children. Statistics indicate something strange is afoot, as food allergies in children rose by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011 alone.

Similarly, in Great Britain one in three people are allergic to something, be … More

September 18, 2014 | By | Reply More
Drop Out and Simplify Your Life

Drop Out and Simplify Your Life













Zen Gardner, Guest
Waking Times

I was thinking about this very subject and sat down to put some notes together when I stopped to moderate comments on the site. And here was this synchronistic and very wise comment from Soliel:

Despite all the fear-mongering out there, many have remained … More

September 17, 2014 | By | 5 Replies More
Coconut Water is One of the Greatest Nutritional from Nature

Coconut Water is One of the Greatest Nutritional from Nature













Karen Foster, Prevent Disease
Waking Times

The first documented use of coconut water dates back just a few centuries, however it’s safe to assume humans have been enjoying this supreme hydrator as long as we’ve been around coconut palms. Here’s why young coconut water has one of the highest sources … More

September 17, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More
How Monsanto and Big-Ag are Fighting Back Against Anti-GMO Activism

How Monsanto and Big-Ag are Fighting Back Against Anti-GMO Activism













Dr. Mercola
Waking Times

Between 2012 and mid-2014, Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) successfully blocked GMO labeling legislation in over 30 states, at a price tag of more than $100 million.

These funds were received from the 300+ members of the GMA, which include chemical/pesticide, GE seed, and … More

September 16, 2014 | By | Reply More

Activism Works

Peace Through Synchronized Global Meditation

Peace Through Synchronized Global Meditation













Lance Schuttler, Personable Media
Waking Times

We live in a world today where the idea of group power is being rekindled and where it’s momentum is gathering. Humanity as a whole is remembering that it is thoughts and actions of kindness, honesty and equality for all that create positive change.… More

September 21, 2014 | By | Reply More
7 Ways Cannabis Legalization Has Already Benefited Colorado

7 Ways Cannabis Legalization Has Already Benefited Colorado













Jeff Roberts, Collective-Evolution
Waking Times

January 1st 2014 saw the opening of the very first cannabis shop in Colorado as the cultivation, manufacture and sale of the controversial plant became fully legalized. Since then, the state has seen a lot of promising results.

Laura Pegram of Drugpolicy.org wrote in her … More

September 16, 2014 | By | Reply More
Sweden Recycling 99 Percent Of Garbage, Edging Closer To Zero-Waste

Sweden Recycling 99 Percent Of Garbage, Edging Closer To Zero-Waste













April McCarthy, Prevent Disease
Waking Times

There’s a revolution happening in Sweden right now. Dubbed the “recycling revolution,” the Scandinavian country now recycles 99 percent of their garbage, edging closer to a zero-waste lifestyle, nationwide.

Wouldn’t it be great if no household waste was wasted? If each and every item … More

September 4, 2014 | By | 6 Replies More
Food as Medicine: How One Hospital Is Using Organic Produce to Help Heal Patients

Food as Medicine: How One Hospital Is Using Organic Produce to Help Heal Patients













Coach Mark Smallwood, EcoWatch
Waking Times

In 431 B.C. Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”

More than 2500 years later, we are inundated with advertisements boasting the latest, greatest cure-all super drug. From a young age, we learn that it doesn’t matter how or … More

August 23, 2014 | By | 5 Replies More
As Keystone XL Dominoes Fall, Time to Arrest Tar Sands Industry

As Keystone XL Dominoes Fall, Time to Arrest Tar Sands Industry













, EcoWatch
Waking Times

We’ve got this.

Thanks to the courageous and indefatigable efforts of pipeline fighters everywhere, the tide has finally turned on Keystone XL. As it becomes increasingly clear that Keystone XL’s northern leg is not going through, it is time to set our sights … More

August 4, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More