Premier Ed Stelmach says his government expects answers from Syncrude after provincial staffers received an anonymous tip that 500 migratory birds landed in a toxic tailings pond near Fort McMurray.

Ice around the pond has prevented animal rescuers from getting to the stranded birds, some already dead and others dying, heavily coated in oil, said Alberta Environment.

Boats will have to be lifted by crane to get to the birds, Stelmach said.
Syncrude said in a release it’s working closely with the government to get the ducks out of the pool.


An investigation is underway at the company’s Aurora North Site mine facility north of Fort McMurray to figure out why the misguided flock flew into the oily pool. And the government wants to know why it took an anonymous tipster to raise the alarm.

“If something has happened in this sort, the company is obligated to report to the Ministry of Environment under conditions of their licence,” said Stelmach yesterday.

Syncrude blamed extreme weather conditions for not being able to place its propane-powered seasonal noise-makers at the pool.

This is the first time a flock of birds has landed in the pond in Syncrude’s 30-year history, said the company.

The incident is an oily black eye for a provincial government that has recently spent $25 million for an advertising campaign aimed at greening Alberta’s image.

Deputy Premier Ron Stevens is currently in Washington to chat with the Bush administration to promote oilsands developments.

“We wish the premier would use that $25 million to deal with this problem with its tarsands rather than trying to deny its problems to the rest of the world,” said Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema.

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