Tainted water has been leaking into the Athabasca River at a rate of 67 litres per second for more than 30 years from an old oilsands tailings pond owned by Suncor, says a report obtained by the Alberta Liberals yesterday.
The expert report, prepared for Suncor for its Tar Island Dyke in November 2007 says about five million litres of the toxic water has leaked into the soil adjacent to the Athabasca River each day since the 1960s, enough to fill five Olympic-sized swimming pools.
“This government refuses to acknowledge that (this) exists, or that it has significant environmental or health impacts,” said Liberal Environment critic, David Swann., to reporters yesterday.
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“The (government) owes an apology to all Albertans, this is clearly a government that doesn’t want to do its job, it doesn’t admit to what scientists are already telling us about the potential impacts on environment and health.”
The report, authored by a wastewater-management firm and six experts from the University of Waterloo, says the water that is seeped through the soil does eventually make it river.
Environment Minister Rob Renner confirmed during question period the Tar Island pond is old, but adds there was no evidence of river contamination.
Renner also said water is currently being removed from the pond and into a new holding area that is new and “higher-tech.”
A baseline study that will look into the implications oilsands projects have on biodiversity has also just been taken on by the province, Premier Ed Stelmach told reporters yesterday.
“We are doing a whole bunch of little things, bit and pieces, a study here a study there, but we have to collate it altogether so we have something that can stand before, not only Albertans, but investors, other countries and other jurisdictions,” Stelmach said.
The report comes a week after the Liberals released an internal Suncor report that says nearly one million litres of contaminated water was released into the Athabasca from a wastewater pond at the company’s Millennium API Upgrader plant. Oilsands developments have has been under scrutiny in recent weeks after 500 ducks died after landing in a toxic tailings pond near Fort McMurray last month.