Only five ducks from a flock of 500 that landed on a toxic pond near Fort MacMurray have been recovered and were transported by Syncrude by jet to Edmonton yesterday morning, in an effort to clean and potentially save their lives.
Though a handful of ducks were recovered from Syncrude’s Aurora mine tailing pond, Alberta Environment spokeswoman Cheryl Robb said that 99 per cent were too heavily saturated to stay afloat, sank to the bottom, and died.
Three of the recovered ducks, two mallards and one bufflehead, are being treated at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton, and while staff said they’ve been able to remove about 70 per cent of the toxic residue, they’re not out of danger yet.
“They’re still probably about 30 per cent oiled and need more washing,” said the group’s founder, Kim Blomme. “It’s too soon to tell if they’ll make a full recovery though.”
Blomme said that making sure the ducks are stabilized is the most crucial part of rehabilitation, as washing off the oil is a highly stressful process.
Syncrude spokesman Alain Moore said that though site workers noticed the large flock had landed on the pond on Monday morning, officials did not notify Alberta Fish and Wildlife of the incident until that afternoon.
Reports from the province indicate that the first word on the incident came from an anonymous tipster, not from Syncrude.
Liberal environment critic David Swann said that the man-made toxic lake is “500 canaries in Syncrude’s mine” and a testament to the ineffectiveness of big oil monitoring.
“This throws in questions about the whole government system of relying on industry to report accidents like this,” said Greenpeace spokesman Mike Hudema. “How many other incidents like this are there that the public hasn’t found out about?”