The much anticipated findings [pdf] from the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Panel, appointed to make recommendations on how to fix Alberta’s failing tar sands pollution monitoring system, were recently released to the public.
The panel was convened in January in response to co-authored research, published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, from David Schindler, a University of Alberta biologist and one of Canada’s top scientists.
Over the past several years, Schindler and his team have studied the high levels of mercury, lead and eleven other toxic elements in the oil sands’ main fresh water source, the Athabasca River. Their results contradict those from the Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP), a government-supported and industry-funded agency which has long claimed that water quality is not impacted by tar sands development.
Siding with Schindler, the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Panel’s final report states that existing water monitoring systems are insufficient, ineffective, and unable to assess the cumulative effects of tar sands production on the environment. To improve the situation, the panel calls for government action and makes some 20 recommendations organized around three main conclusions:
A lack of reliable scientific information about what happens when crude oil is spilled into rivers or the ocean and a fragmented system of response plans is...