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 →

Lake Toxins Tied to Oilsands

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Alberta’s oilsands operations ~ Queen’s/Environment Canada photo

Story published Jan 8, 2013, A1 Calgary Herald

Margaret Munro, Postmedia News; With Files From Dan Healing, Calgary Herald.

Leading federal and academic scientists have uncovered “compelling” evidence that Alberta’s oilsands operations have been sending toxins into the atmosphere for decades.

The team has found “striking” increases in contaminants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) at the bottom of six lakes up to 90 kilometres from the massive oilsands operations in northeastern Alberta.

“Industry’s role as a decades-long contributor of PAHs to oilsands lake ecosystems is now clearly evident,” the team reports in a study published Monday in the U.S. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Continue reading →