Dr. David Schindler, the scientist who sounded the alarm on tar sands contamination back in 2010, has suddenly found his research backed by an Environment Canada study recently published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The federal study, which confirmed Schindler’s hotly-contested research, has reignited concerns over the pace and scale of development in the Athabasca region, an area now beset with a host of ecological and human health concerns.
If you ask an Environment Canada media spokesperson about contamination resulting from tar sands operations, they will not tell you the federal government has failed to adequately monitor the mega-project's effects on water.
They most certainly will not say outright that the federal government has failed to monitor the long term or cumulative environmental effects of the world's largest industrial project. They won't say it, but not because it isn't the case.
The tar sands are contaminating hundreds of kilometres of land in northern Alberta with cancer-causing contaminants and neurotoxins.
And although federal scientists have confirmed this, they are prevented from sharing information about their research with the media.
The result is an overly-monitored process that causes burdensome delays in media-scientist interactions. The overwhelming consequence is that the media has stopped talking to the country's national scientists.
Today federal scientists from Environment Canada presented research at an international toxicology conference in the U.S. that indicates contaminants from the Alberta tar sands are polluting the landscape on a scale much larger than previously thought.
A team lead by federal scientist Jane Kirk discovered contaminants in lakes as far as 100 kilometers away from tar sands operations. The federal research confirms and expands upon the hotly contested findings of aquatic scientist David Schindler who, in 2010, found pollution from the tar sands accumulating on the landscape up to 50 kilometers away.
“That means the footprint is four times bigger than we found,” Schindler told Postmedia News.
Senior scientist Derek Muir, who presented some of the findings at Wednesday's conference, said the contaminated region is “potentially larger than we might have anticipated.” The 'legacy' of chemicals in lake sediment gives evidence that tar sands pollution has been traveling long distances for decades. Samples show the build up of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, known to cause cancer in humans and to be toxic to aquatic animals, in 6 remote and undisturbed lakes up to 100 kilometers away from tar sands operations.
The pollutants are “petrogenic” in nature, meaning they are petroleum derived, and have steadily and dramatically increased since the 1970s, showing the contaminant levels “seem to parallel the development of the oilsands industry,” Muir said.