EDMONTON - Syncrude Canada says three times as many waterfowl died on its tailings pond last spring than the 500 originally thought.


oilsands company says many birds returned in the weeks that followed
the initial deaths and the total counted by staff as part of a
government investigation was 1,606.


The waterfowl were on their
spring migration last April when they landed on the toxic sludge pond
and died after becoming covered in residual bitumen.


Images of
the dead birds flashed around the globe and became a public relations
disaster for a government and industry trying to clean up their
environmental image.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper said at the time that Canada's international reputation had been harmed.

held a news conference Tuesday to announce what it is doing to improve
protection of birds around its waste ponds. Measures include using
radar to track flight patterns and increasing the number of
noise-makers to scare off the birds. The company has also decided to
employ its deterrence methods all year rather than just during spring

“The drowning of the waterfowl last April shouldn't
have happened and is unacceptable,” company president and CEO Tom
Katinas said in a news release.

“There is tremendous resolve in our organization to learn from this experience and help ensure it does not happen again.”

oilsands giant faces charges under provincial and federal laws and
faces a maximum total fine of $800,000. A jail term is also an option.
The company appeared in court last week where it was given an
additional three months to enter a plea.

Net income in 2008 for the Canadian Oil Sands Trust (TSX:COS.UN), the majority shareholder for Syncrude, was $1.5 billion.