There are more than 176 square kilometres of tailings ponds holding waste from oilsands development in the area around Fort McMurray, Alberta. According to new research released from Environment Canada, those tailings ponds are emitting much higher levels of toxic and potentially cancer-causing contaminants into the air than previously reported.
As the Canadian Press reports, Environment Canada scientist Elisabeth Galarneau is the first to conduct field studies in the region and her research confirms that previous estimates of chemical release into the air have been massively underestimated.
“We found that there actually does appear to be a net flow of these compounds going from water to air,” Galarneau told the Canadian Press. “It’s just a bit under five times higher from the ponds than what’s been reported.”
A previous study used modeling to estimate potential chemical release, but Galarneau’s study, published recently in the journal of Atmospheric Environment, relied on air samples and filters located in the study region.