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Ecojustice research offers troubling glimpse of harm oilsands pollution causes

Toxic emissions from oilsands facilities put waterways, fish and people at risk - take action today!

Ecojustice research offers troubling glimpse of harm oilsands pollution causes

Photo by Dan Woynillowicz, The Pembina Institute -

By Dr. Elaine MacDonald, Senior Staff Scientist

What’s really going on in the oilsands region?

That’s the question Ecojustice hoped to help answer when we undertook our latest research. What we uncovered was unsettling, to say the least. Our research showed that toxic emissions from oilsands facilities in Northern Alberta are polluting the nearby Athabasca River, contaminating a waterway that’s home to more than half of the province’s fish species.

The Athabasca River is Alberta’s longest and only major free-flowing river, and it holds ecological, cultural and commercial significance for the people that live along its shores. It is also a vital life source for many wildlife species.

How we did it
Ecojustice used the limited public information available through the National Pollutants Release Inventory to conduct deposition modelling that illustrates how particulate matter emitted by two separate oilsands facilities pollutes the Athabasca River. The analysis was purposely conservative, examining just one of more than a dozen stacks at each facility.

Learn more! Read the full report here.

What we found
The modelling estimates more than 1,000 tonnes of particulate matter deposition from the two stacks in just one year. Taking into consideration all sources of emissions along the river, the cumulative impact of oilsands pollution on the Athabasca and its surrounding ecosystems is likely significant.

Why is particulate matter bad for people and the environment?
Upgrading oil extracted from Alberta’s oilsands is a nasty bit of business. Huge amounts of energy are required to extract the thick, tarlike substance from the earth and transform it into synthetic crude oil.

The burning and combustion associated with upgrading comes at a heavy cost: the release of airborne pollutants, including particulate matter containing toxic polycyclic aromatic compounds. These substances have been found to cause cancer in humans and impact the development and survival of fish.

The BIG problem
Even though the oilsands are one of the biggest industrial projects on the planet, the federal government doesn’t monitor and report oilsands pollution in an accessible, transparent way. That means groups like Ecojustice have to go to great lengths to dig up and analyse data that should already be easily available to the public.

And without that data, Canadians have no way of holding polluters accountable for the harm polluters cause to our health and the environment. That needs to end now.

How you can help
You can take action today by sending a message to the federal government.

Tell the federal government that your health is a priority and that polluters must be held accountable for what they put into the air, water and land you depend on.

Tell the federal government to investigate and disclose the full impacts of oilsands pollution today.

---> Sign the letter today! <---


Sask Involvement

Posted by Maurice Mareschal at Mar 11, 2013 12:16 PM
You might know that Harper et al shut down the small Federal Fisheries Department in Saskatchewan over a year ago. However, do you know the reason?

Fisheries were monitoring the 'downwind' polution emanating from Fort Mac. When their study results were sent in to Ottawa, the Harper plutocrats ordered the Sask Fisheries group to stand down in that kind of studies even though the impact on fish, bird, wildlife, forestry AND people was already easily visible to anyone who looked.

When the scientists in Sask refused to retract their findings, the Harperites ordered the demobilization of Sask Fisheries under the guise that Sask had no need for a Fisheries presence there. And so the personnel were given a choice: 'Move to where your skills will have more meaningful worth or lose your job.' Those who didn't want to move for whatever reason, were told that by March 2013 their jobs were finished. BUT if they chose to back out of their jobs prior to that date, a stipend commensurate to their standing would be paid them BUT they would have to sigh a 'lawful' document that prevented them from divulging any suggestion of their findings re the pollution effects on Saskatchewan people, wildlife, land, water and air quality.

Sask Involvement

Posted by Mary Etey at Mar 25, 2013 11:23 AM
Sounds like it is or should be unlawful for the government to request silence from professionals in a position to advise the public about harmful pollutants that risk damaging people's health. Aren't there any laws that address this? Isn't it a professional person's responsibility to protect the public? Isn't this the government's responsibility? What about whistle blower protection? If these people are entitled to severance pay, isn't it blackmail to request their silence to get the money they are due?

Sask Involvement

Posted by Darryl Erentzen at Mar 25, 2013 11:23 AM
Sounds like there needs to be more than a petition. More like Freedom of Information lawsuits and challenges under employment statutes. There's a wealth of precedent making this kind of maneuvering on the Government's part actionable.

Oil sands pollution

Posted by Paul Armstrong at Mar 25, 2013 11:23 AM
It seems that the polluters in the oil sands are getting away with it, with the help of the Federal and Provincial governments. Lack of freedom of information (the true signs of fascism) are leaving the public without proper information. This smells of cover up and collusion between the oil companies and both levels of government.
So much for democracy Mr. Adolf Harper.
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