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

An Introduction to Awakening

An Introduction to Awakening













Zen Gardner, Guest
Waking Times

The waking up process is a very personal experience. Once we become aware of the existence of a fabricated world we thought to be real and that our true nature is anything but what we’ve been told, there’s no turning back.

It may appear to … More

April 21, 2014 | By | Reply More
Nearly a Thousand Environmental Activists Murdered Worldwide Since 2002

Nearly a Thousand Environmental Activists Murdered Worldwide Since 2002













Jeremy Hance, Mongabay
Waking Times

At least 908 people were murdered for taking a stand to defend the environment between 2002 and 2013, according to a new report today from Global Witness, which shows a dramatic uptick in the murder rate during the past four years. Notably, the report appears … More

April 19, 2014 | By | 5 Replies More
Open Source Plans for Modern Tesla Free Energy Generator Released to Public

Open Source Plans for Modern Tesla Free Energy Generator Released to Public













Terence Newton, Staff Writer
Waking Times

In a world of problems and solutions, few ideas spur both immediate hope and skepticism as the idea of free energy, and, on the brink of ecological disaster, nothing may be of greater importance to the human race.

The story of Nikola More

April 14, 2014 | By | 44 Replies More
Neuroscientist Exposes Dangers of Electromagnetic Fields

Neuroscientist Exposes Dangers of Electromagnetic Fields













Kevin Samson, Guest
Waking Times

Neuroscience has come under scrutiny for its involvement in an array of mind control initiatives and other ethically questionable research. But at least one neuroscientist from Sweden has gone on record to caution against the increasing dangers of Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) on human beings … More

April 14, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More
On the Eve of Construction

On the Eve of Construction













Zen Gardner, Guest
Waking Times

I love the sound of construction. I always have. Not the industrial sound from the kind of massive, offensive structures made with other-worldly looking machines, but the intentional, gentle kind. Small structures going up, improvements on homes, road repairs, even tending to gardens whether … More

April 13, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More

Activism Works

Ecuador Will Have Referendum on Fate of Yasuni After Activists Collect Over 700,000 Signatures

Ecuador Will Have Referendum on Fate of Yasuni After Activists Collect Over 700,000 Signatures













Jeremy Hance, Mongabay
Waking Times

In what is a major victory for environmentalists, campaigners with United for Yasuni have collected 727,947 signatures triggering a national referendum on whether or not oil drilling should proceed in three blocs of Yasuni National Park in Ecuador. The effort started last year after Ecuador’s … More

April 17, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More
The Truth About Fluoride Becoming More Widely Known

The Truth About Fluoride Becoming More Widely Known













Dr. Mercola
Waking Times

Fluoride is a poisonous substance added to many municipal water supplies across the US, Canada, and elsewhere without the permission of the residents. Is there a model that communities can follow to remove it from their water supply? The short answer to this question is yesMore

April 1, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More
6 Crimes Against Nature Perpetrated By The Food Industry

6 Crimes Against Nature Perpetrated By The Food Industry













Martha Rosenberg, AlterNet
Waking Times

While many procedures on factory farms are cruel, breeding animals into mutants and violating mother/offspring bonds are truly crimes against nature.

The horrors of factory farming are multifold. Treating animals like heads of lettuce—”forget it’s an animal” says one farming magazine—has created institutionalized ruthlessness toward … More

March 28, 2014 | By | 5 Replies More
Our Respective Journeys Into the Valley of Reason

Our Respective Journeys Into the Valley of Reason













Michael T. Winter, Contributor
Waking Times

The Internet awakening has given birth to a worldwide multitude of people that are disengaging from the programmed paradigm created for us, and awakening to the reality of the dangers we face. The web has supplied a platform for writers to take a crack … More

March 26, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More
13 Ways Foodies Are Changing The Food Industry

13 Ways Foodies Are Changing The Food Industry













Heather Callaghan & Jeffrey Green, Guests
Waking Times

A major shift in the consciousness of food consumers is forcing the industry into a competitive race to become more natural.  The market is telling food producers that they no longer want so-called factory food because of its many harmful effects on … More

March 25, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More