contamination

Thu, 2014-07-31 15:33Carol Linnitt
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Companies Illegally Dumped Toxic Fracking Chemicals in Dawson Creek Water Treatment Systems At Least Twice, Officials Report

fracking in BC, Dawson Creek

Although city officials from Dawson’s Creek won’t disclose the names of the companies involved, they are confirming that fracking waste has been illegally dumped into the city’s water treatment system on at least two occasions.

Jim Chute, administrative officer for the city, told DeSmog Canada, that illegal dumping has occurred at least three times, but twice the waste was “clearly” related to fracking.

It has actually been on three occasions in the last 18 months where we’ve caught inappropriate materials being dumped,” he said. “One of those was a load of contaminated diesel. It’s not clear to us exactly how that diesel got contaminated so we don’t know if that was frack-related or not.”

The other two were a mix of compounds that were clearly flowback waste from a frack operation.”

Wed, 2014-07-30 14:09Judith Lavoie
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Swimmers Warned to Avoid Ottawa River After It Rains Due to Sewage Overflows

Ottawa Riverkeeper #swimdrinkfish

Never swim in the Ottawa River if it has rained during the previous 48 hours, recommends Meredith Brown, the executive director of Ottawa Riverkeeper.

The non-profit group is raising public awareness about raw sewage pouring into the popular recreational river after rainstorms or snow melts. Making matters worse, on the Quebec side of the river, there is a lack of adequate testing for fecal coliform bacteria levels at beaches, Brown said.

The problem is combined sewer overflows — pipes that carry both storm water and untreated sewage. These systems were built in many Canadian cities between 1880 and 1960.

Usually the liquid goes to treatment plants, but, when volumes threaten to swamp plants, the untreated mixture is diverted into the river to prevent flooding and sewer backups.

Some combined sewers rarely overflow, while others overflow every time it rains, “ says a City of Ottawa information sheet.

It is a problem that is gaining increasing attention from those who kayak, swim, sail or paddleboard in the river, Brown said.

Tue, 2014-06-24 17:11Carol Linnitt
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New Campaign Spoofs Suncor's "What Yes Can Do" Green PR Blitz

Suncor, SumofUs, what yes can do

A new website launched today by the corporate accountability group SumofUs.org asks ordinary Canadians to take a closer look at oilsands major Suncor's latest ad campaign, What Yes Can Do.”

By launching their own version of the ad campaign at www.whatyescando.org, SumofUs.org is questioning the disparity between “what yes can do” as Suncor puts it, and “what yes has done” in the Alberta oilsands.

SumofUs.org points out Suncor's green ad campaign, which emphasizes the corporation's efforts to preserve “…an environment for generations to come,” doesn't square with the company's own lobbying effort to limit protections for the Athabasca River. 

More than five years ago, a panel of experts recommended an end to water withdrawals from the Athabasca River during certain times of the year, when water levels are at their lowest. The cut-off would protect fish hatchlings and other aquatic life from dying off during low river flow.

All companies operating in the Alberta oilsands agreed to the recommended cut-off, but Suncor, along with Syncrude, are lobbying the Alberta government for an exemption

Mon, 2014-03-10 14:21Emma Gilchrist
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Sierra Club, Wilderness Committee Taking B.C. Fracking Water Case to Supreme Court Next Week

Two B.C. environmental groups are taking the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission to court next week over practices they argue unlawfully permit oil and gas companies to use water.

Sierra Club B.C. and Western Canada Wilderness Committee — in documents filed with the Supreme Court of B.C. — argue the Oil and Gas Commission has been engaged in a “systemic” practice of issuing back-to-back “short-term” water approvals and call for permits issued to Encana to be quashed.

The case will be heard in the Supreme Court of B.C. in Vancouver on March 17 and 18.

Under the Water Act, if you want long-term access to water, you need a water licence,” says Caitlyn Vernon, campaigns director with Sierra Club B.C. “What the Oil and Gas Commission is doing is granting consecutive short-term approvals to oil and gas companies.”

The case centres around water approvals under Section 8 of B.C.’s Water Act, which governs short-term use and diversion of water for up to 24 months.

By requesting and analyzing Section 8 water approvals going back seven years, Sierra Club B.C. and the Wilderness Committee — represented by lawyers from Ecojustice — determined the approvals were being given to the same companies for consecutive terms.

Tue, 2013-12-31 15:15Carol Linnitt
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B.C. Government's LNG Energy Awareness Quiz Short on Facts

The B.C. Liberal government released an energy awareness quiz Monday touting the benefits of B.C.'s fracked gas boom while failing to address the implications of gas development on the province's water and greenhouse gas emissions.

The LNG in B.C. Awareness Quiz is already being tagged as a promotional tool used to win public approval and downplay the negative side effects of the B.C. Liberal government's heavy push for liqueified natural gas (LNG). More than a dozen LNG export facilities are proposed for the B.C. coast to export gas to Asian markets. 

Athough directly related to fracking, the quiz makes no mention of the controversial industrial process and the wide range of social and ecological concerns arising in its wake.

The quiz is comprised of the ten following questions and extended answers:

Wed, 2013-11-06 15:28Carol Linnitt
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Water Heavily Contaminated from Lac-Mégantic Disaster, Groups Show

Lac-Megantic Chaudière River water contamination

Sediment from the Chaudière River, near the site of the Lac-Mégantic train derailment four months ago, shows high levels of contaminants according to testing done by Greenpeace Quebec and the Société pour vaincre la pollution (SVP). Despite months of cleanup operations sediments collected from the river show higher-than-acceptable levels of several chemicals, including cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Quebec Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet said the department continues to monitor the safety of the water, reports the Montreal Gazette, and will take into consideration the two groups' test results.

In late September Quebec’s environment department lifted a drinking-water ban for several downstream communities who rely on the Chaudière River for water.

Sampling has not stopped, analyses have not stopped, the teams are still on the ground,” Blanchet said in the National Assembly Wednesday. He added “information is still publicly available on the Environment Ministry’s website, such that we know that there is no immediate threat.”

Both Greenpeace Quebec and SVP say pollutant levels in samples taken 4.7km downstream of the lake are 27 times higher than accepted levels.

Mon, 2013-10-21 14:03Erika Thorkelson
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New Study Shows Mercury Levels On the Rise in Athabasca Area

Mercury levels rising in Northern Alberta tar sands

A study has found evidence of rising mercury levels downstream from Northern Alberta’s oil sands extraction plants.

Researchers collected gull and tern eggs from nests in various locations around Alberta over several years. Eggs collected in the Athabasca Lake area, downstream of oil sands' development and refineries, showed much higher levels of mercury than those collected nearer to Calgary.

The Joint Oil Sands Monitoring (JOSM) Program, a partnership between federal and provincial governments, commissioned the peer-reviewed study, but it has yet to appear on their online portal. The Environmental Science and Technology Journal released the study online this September.

A similar study in 2011 by the same authors also found mercury levels in gulls from the Lake Athabasca area showed a 40% increase from 1977 to 2009.

Sat, 2013-10-19 13:13Erin Flegg
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Internal Documents Reveal Internal Disorder More Than A Year After Implementation of Joint Oil Sands Monitoring Program

Lake Athabasca

More than a year after the program's supposed implementation, negotiations over the Alberta-Canada Joint Oil Sands Monitoring (JOSM) program were still ongoing between the federal government and the Government of Alberta, email correspondence shows.

In documents obtained by the Globe and Mail through the Access to Information Act, it’s clear that the conditions of the program changed throughout the last year. Though details are unclear due to redactions in the released emails, it’s evident that the final deal wasn’t signed until June of this year after significant back and forth and meetings between the Alberta government—who publicly resisted the creation of joint provincial-federal program—and Environment Canada officials.

Bob Hamilton, Environment Canada’s deputy minister, wrote on March 28 of this year, more than a full year after the program was announced, that they “have a green light to move forward with OS [oilsands] monitoring.”

Thu, 2013-06-13 15:01Stephen Leahy
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Fort McMurray Flooding Emphasizes Tar Sands' Threat to Mackenzie River Basin

Roesnberg Forum Map of the Mackenzie River Basin on DeSmog Canada

Record flooding in the heart of the Alberta tar sands dramatically illustrates their threat to Canada's 'Serengeti', the Mackenzie River basin. Only days before this week's flooding in Fort McMurray, a panel of international science experts warned that the nearly 200 square kilometres of toxic wastewater lakes near rivers like the Athabasca pose a direct threat one of the world's most important ecosystems.

“What happens in the Mackenzie River Basin has global consequences,” Henry Vaux, a resource economist at the University of California told DeSmog.

The largest single threat to the Basin is a potential breach in one of the many tailings or wastewater lakes sending the toxic water into the Athabasca River, a major tributary of the Mackenzie said nine Canadian, US and UK scientists convened by the US-based Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy.

Tue, 2013-06-11 19:10Heather Libby and Carol Linnitt
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Fort McMurray, Home to 176 Square km of Tar Sands Tailings Ponds, Overwhelmed by Floods

On Friday the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), the Alberta government's industry regulator, released a report stating that tar sands companies have failed to comply with pre-existing agreements to limit the amount of water used in tar sands extraction and processing as well as the amount of polluted water that ends up in the region's growing toxic tailings ponds.

The release of the report coincides with massive floods near Fort McMurray, wreaking havoc on the city's infrastructure. Since Friday the region has seen between 80 and 180mm of precipitation. Major highways have been closed, roads have been partially washed out, buildings flooded and homes evacuated. The city of Fort McMurray officially declared a state of emergency today, while unseasonably high temperatures prompt snow melt and rain is forecast to continue throughout the week.

The immediate question is apparent: what threat does the flooding pose to the massive tailings ponds lining the Athabasca River and the millions of litres of toxic contaminants they contain?

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