Hundreds of Migratory Ducks Trapped on Toxic Oil Sands Pond

If the fact that the Alberta Oil Sands are the largest point source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada isn't enough to get you to stand up and take notice, maybe the ducks trapped and dying in the toxic tailing ponds will.

The oil sands are licensed to use more fresh water in a year than the entire City of Calgary (about the same size as Austin, Texas) and 90% of that fresh water ends up in massive tailing ponds, so large that that they are considered one of the largest human-made structures in the world.

Bad news for our fresh water, the global climate and apparently, ducks.

It is being reported today that “hundreds of migrating birds are dying after landing on a tailings pond in northern Alberta owned by Syncrude,” one of the largest players in the Alberta oil patch.

Environment officials said the birds are “clearly heavily oiled” and are not able to fly.

This all coming at the same time that the Alberta Government has launched a $25 million PR offensive to dispel the “myths” surrounding the environmental impacts the Alberta Oil Sands are having on our planet.


“… 90% of that fresh water ends up in massive tailing ponds,”

Where does this 90% figure come from? Can anyone provide credible link?

“90% figure come from?” Does not matter don’t you know? 90% is way up there with the IPCC most likely…so it is what they call …close enough!

Thanks for the link Kevin, but the Pembina report provides no references whatsover for this 90% claim.

Secondly, the claim that the tailing ponds are “so large that they are considered one of the largest human-made structures in the world” appears rather dubious also. The tailing ponds are rather modest in size and scope.

The tailing ponds are miniscule VJ.

Now instead of adhering to a double standard, why not call those who proclaim the tailing ponds are ” . . one of the largest human-made structures in the world.” “proven liars”?

You wouldn’t be a hypocrite now would you VJ? :)

Oh, come on, Paul. Get a grip. Comments like that threaten whatever dubious credibility you may have accumulated here.

Fern Mackenzie

It’s DeSmog’s credibility that is weakened by its unsupported claims about the tailing ponds, not mine Fern.

Paul S. the Filthy Liar, check this out:

At a massive 540,000,000 cubic meters in volume, Canada’s largest dam is second in size only to China’s Three Gorges Dam. But unlike that world-famous utility structure, the monumental Syncrude Tailings Dam near Fort McMurray, Alberta, doesn’t generate electricity or attract the attention of tourists…

…Because of their great scale, tailings ponds contribute significantly to the environmental impact of surface mining, particularly with regard to the use of water…

And note the picture of the tailing pond as seen from space.

And note the picture of the tailing pond as seen from space.

Wow. Did you notice how small the tailing pond looks?

So you can see it from space. Big deal. A satellite can see my car from space too.

At a massive 540,000,000 cubic meters in volume, Canada’s largest dam is second in size only to China’s Three Gorges Dam.

Most of the 540 million cubic meters is simply left over dirt. Big deal. It’s the surface area of the dam that matters.

Three Gorges Dam covers over 1,000 square kms.
All tailing dams combined: about 50 square kms.

Sorry to break the news to you VJ but 50 square kms isn’t very much. All the misguided attempts at grotesque exaggeration don’t change that fact.

Provide evidence that they are 50 square km. We already know you are a liar, so will believe nothing you assert without evidence to show you are not making it up out of thin air.

I think I see the argument: only the duck tailing pond counts, and maybe only part of it. Maybe what he is driving at is that each duck is only sitting on something like 30 cm X 15 xm. So, for 500 ducks that is only 20 or 30 square meters, total. The managers of the tailings pond should be congratulated that they have such a small footprint on the environment in all of big Alberta. I mean duck-print. So, saving $20 by not using gun-scaring devices seems to be in order.

The 90% figure can just as easily come from Government Data as a pembina report. Suncor is the only Oil Sands mine licensed in it’s approval to discharge 10% of its water. All other mines store their used water in the tailings ponds - so in some cases 100%…in one case 90%.

“Recovery operations are underway, but heavy ice surrounding the pond is making it difficult to launch boats so rescuers can try to save the stricken birds.”


“Katinas said the company uses noisemakers from spring until fall to deter birds.
However, it was not able to set up the devices due to the extreme winter weather conditions in the region last week, he said.”

Hmm, “extreme winter weather conditions” – one month into SPRING. Odd that that didn’t merit any attention?

Extreme weather events existed prior to AGW Hugh, and absent any data provide by you, this extreme weather event in northern Alberta was a natural weather event.

Rob’s point is why is the most pertinent information concerning the ducks plight excised from the news report before being posted here?

If he had a point, I would have guessed it was to make claims about thousands of birds killed per day by windmills and then not provide a url to some support for that claim when asked.

“The size of the annual body count — conservatively put at 4,700 birds — is unique to this sprawling, 50-square-mile site in the Diablo Mountains between San Francisco and the agricultural Central Valley because it spans an international migratory bird route regulated by the federal government. The low mountains are home to the world’s highest density of nesting golden eagles.”

the size of the annual count is unique to this location – THOUSANDS per DAY (your capitalization) was inaccurate.

Not surprising any year. Ice break-up at the lake my parents’ cabin is on hasn’t occurred prior to May since they built there in the 80’s.
Provide a link to thousands of bird mortalities?
I thought bats were more likely to be killed, and bird deaths rare.

Yeah. They were probably flying back south again – because it’s still too damn cold.

O-o-o-k-a-ay. Yes, it is so cold lately. Global warming must be over, etc.

“Global Land Temperature Warmest On Record In March 2008”
The average global land temperature in March of 2008 was the warmest on record and ocean surface temperatures were the 13th warmest. -

Well, we all know that Rob would start ranting blue murder if I pointed out that it’s been an unusually warm spring so far here in Ottawa, and suggested it might have something to do with AGW. Then he’d point gleefully at the freak snow squalls we experienced yesterday and the below seasonal average temperatures the last few days and claim we’re all full of doo-doo for taking the preceding three weeks of warm weather seriously. Tell that to the rows of peas that have sprouted in my garden, and the tulips (daffodils, lungwort, scylla, forsythia, trillium, MAGNOLIA … etc) in full bloom.

The point is that Rob, Troll and the rest of them don’t know the difference between regional weather variations and long term global climatic trends – unless it suits them and their spin. It doesn’t surprise me that March 2008 was the warmest on record, and our stats here probably contributed to that result. But neither does it surprise me that there are places in the world that don’t conform to the overall upward trend.

Fern Mackenzie

Make our own little way to help our environment, if all people behind bi companies can’t do it.