Native Canadians living downstream from the oil sands mines in Alberta have long contended that their high cancer rates were related to the expanding excavation of bitumen for the production of synthetic crude. Their assertions have been disputed by the reports of a joint oil industry-government research panel that concluded that natural causes — and not mining — were responsible for the high levels of various metals in the sub-Arctic Athabasca River.
But now a new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is backing the position of the Native Canadians. Led by several University of Alberta researchers, the study found that unusual levels of lead, mercury, zinc, cadmium and other toxic pollutants were found near oil sands mining sites or downstream from them. The levels exceeded federal and provincial government guidelines.
National or provincial guidelines for the protection of aquatic life were exceeded for seven of these metals: cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, silver and zinc — in melted snow and/or water, says the research, published in the prestigious scientific journal called the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study, published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), also found that the levels of heavy metals detected from snow runoff or downstream of industrial development exceeded Canadian and Alberta guidelines for protecting fish and aquatic life for seven out of 13 pollutants studied. In some cases metal contamination exceeded guidelines by 30-fold.
The heavy metals, rated as priority pollutants by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, include mercury, arsenic, beryllium, copper, cadmium, thallium, lead, nickel, zinc and silver. All are toxic. Arsenic is a known human carcinogen; cadmium can severely destroy the kidneys and other organs; and thallium is so poisonous that it pops up in Agatha Christie mysteries as a murder weapon.
The study found that the heavy metals are primarily leaching out of bulldozed or deforested mine sites that cover a 600 square kilometre area or are raining down on the landscape in the form of particulate air pollution from oil sands upgraders that transform bitumen into marketable oil. Under the Fisheries Act, it is against the law to discharge deleterious substances such as heavy metals into fish bearing waterways.
The word "Duh" comes to mind...
I expect Kakato will be here shortly to run damage control.