Canadian Consulting Engineer

Oil sands blamed for grotesque fish

September 20, 2010
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

As if 1,600 ducks dying in a tailing pond weren't enough, then came billboards in Europe comparing the oilsand...

As if 1,600 ducks dying in a tailing pond weren’t enough, then came billboards in Europe comparing the oilsands to the BP Gulf spill. Now the Alberta oil sands industry, which is a major client of consulting engineering companies, is is facing highly publicized images of fish suffering from deformities and tumours.
Professor David Schindler of the University of Alberta, together with First Nations leaders from the Athabasca watershed region held a press conference on September 16, showing grotesque examples of fish caught in the Lower Athabasca River, Athabasca Delta and Lake Athabasca, and suggesting that the oil sands industry is partly to blame.
Schindler said the National Pollutant Release Inventory shows that the oil sands mining and processing are releasing large volumes of airborne pollutants, and that “deleterious substances have been deposited n the waters in clear violation of the federal Fisheries Act.”
Schindler and his group have sent a letter to the Prime Minister asking for an independent study on the health effects of the oil sands on the people and fish in Northern Alberta. Jim Prentice, federal Minister of the Environment, responded with a promise to find independent scientists to sit down with Schindler and go through previous studies before deciding what to do. The mayor of Wood Buffalo (which includes Fort McMurray) and MLA Guy Boutilier support an independent fish monitoring program.
Professor Schindler, who is an Officer of the Order of Canada, has already published peer reviewed studies that found elevated levels of cadmium, mercury, lead and other toxic elements in the Athabasca River.
A report in the Canadian Press said the fish displayed at the press conference on September 16 were “difficult to look at.” In a photograph, Schindler was holding a fish with a golf ball sized tumour bulging from its side. Other fish had deformed spines, one had no snout, and several were covered in lesions.  


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