Study confirms that the Canadian oilsands are contaminating groundwater

New federal research confirms that Alberta’s oilsands are polluting ground water and seeping into the Athabasca River, the industry has maintained that toxic chemicals are contained safely in tailing ponds.

Previous studies using models have estimated the leakage at 6.5 million litres a day from a single pond.

But the Environment Canada study used new technology to actually fingerprint the mix of groundwater chemicals in the area.

It found the mix of chemicals from tailings is different from that in naturally occurring bitumen deposits.

That tailings mix, which contains toxic chemicals, is found in groundwater around mining operations, but not in areas away from development.

The Pembina Institute, an environmental research group, has long said the ponds leak. But analyst Erin Flanagan said the new research shows even Pembina underestimated how much.

“As we continue to expand the industry, we’re also expanding the production of tailings waste.”

The study, conducted under a new federal-provincial oilsands monitoring program, was accepted for publication in late January by the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

The federal scientists were not available.  The Alberta government says the research is of interest, but doesn’t confirm anything.

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