It’s one of those “I told you so” findings, as the toxic fingerprint of tarsand oil production is found in distant lakes supposedly unaffected by the decades of strip mining. Well, the oil companies and their shills would have had people believe there was no effect, that is. Environmentalists were listening to doctors and people in the region suffering from higher than average cancer rates.
“P. Timoney evaluated environmental contaminants in the area surrounding Fort Chipewyan. From 2001 to 2005, concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) rose within the sediment around Lake Athabasca. The report indicated that the treated drinking water in Fort Chipewyan was safe, but described high levels of arsenic, mercury and PAHs in fish, which is the main diet of many people in Fort Chipewyan, especially members of its Aboriginal communities. Dr. Timoney also quoted evidence from previous documents that there has been water contamination in the region since the 1960s, including evidence of oil spills and leaking. No evidence was available to determine how much of the measured chemicals were due to naturally occurring sources or how much resulted from human activity.
Now, years later, there is evidence further supporting claims by environmentalists.
The joint study between scientists at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., and Environment Canada looked at core samples from five lakes close to the oilsands mining and upgrading operations in Fort McMurray, Alta. They also studied samples from Namur Lake, 90 kilometres northwest.
The authors focused on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. These are cancer-causing chemicals that are released when things are burned. They can occur naturally — from forest fires, volcanic activity and geological deposits — but burning petroleum in the production of the oilsands leaves a particular fingerprint, so the scientists were able to trace where the PAHs in the core samples came from.
So again, the reasons for winding down tar sand production, while ramping-up renewable energy technology use instead, becomes clear.