Mercury levels rising in expanse around Alberta oilsands

Environment Canada research scientist Jane Kirk collects snow samples near Fort McMurray, Alberta. The snow may look pristine but it can contain traces of toxins. PHOTO: RODNEY MCINNIS/ENVIRONMENT CANADA

Environment Canada research scientist Jane Kirk collects snow samples near Fort McMurray, Alberta. The snow may look pristine but it can contain traces of toxins.
PHOTO: RODNEY MCINNIS/ENVIRONMENT CANADA

Published December 29, 2013

Mercury wafting out of oilsands operations is impacting an area – or “bull’s-eye” — that extends for about 19,000 square kilometres in northeast Alberta, according to federal scientists.

Levels of the potent neurotoxin found near the massive industrial operation have been found to be up to 16 times higher than “background” levels for the region, says Environment Canada researcher Jane Kirk, who recently reported the findings at an international toxicology conference.

Mercury can bioaccumulate in living creatures and chronic exposure can cause brain damage. It is such a concern that Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq signed an international treaty in October pledging Canada to further reduce releases to the environment. Continue reading

Federal scientists uncover evidence that oilsands contaminants travel further than expected

Published November 13, 2012

Federal scientists report polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, are building up in lake sediments up to 100 kilometres from the oilsands operations. PHOTO: POSTMEDIA NEWS FILES

By Margaret Munro

Postmedia News

UNDATED – Federal scientists have uncovered evidence that contaminants wafting out Alberta’s oilsands operations are collecting on the bottom of remote lakes up to 100 kilometres away.

The chemical “legacy” in the lake sediments indicates that oilsands pollution is travelling further than expected and has been for decades.

“The footprint of the deposition is potentially larger than we might have anticipated,” says Derek Muir, a senior Environment Canada scientist, who will present the findings Wednesday at an international toxicology conference in the U.S. where the oilsands are a hot topic. Continue reading