Tar sands: the deposits sit beneath pristine boreal forest (a globally important carbon store and wildlife habitat), the developments strip the forests and drain the wetlands (some mines can be seen from space), they “constitute one of our planet’s greatest threats” (James Hansen, NASA) and they produce huge amounts of toxic waste.
Unsurprisingly, the Alberta government and industry claims that pollutants are from natural sources and not from the expanding production of oil from tar sands. A two-year study of the Athabasca River by ecologists at the University of Alberta contradicts that view.
The study says the provincial government’s industry-funded monitoring scheme, the Regional Aquatic Monitoring Programme (RAMP), is ‘incompetent’ and did not make its data available for public or scientific scrutiny. David Schindler, the study’s co-author, said ‘We’ve repeatedly questioned RAMP’s findings and nothing has been done’ and added that ecologists had deliberately set out to test the claims being made by industry and Alberta politicians that all contaminants in the river were from natural sources.
Despite the findings, Alberta government officials continue to deny a link between tar sands production and river pollution.
To find out more about tar sands, please read this Ecologist article and visit one or more of these web sites: