March Suncor spill – Environmental groups ask Ottawa to investigate

April 26, 2013 | By | Reply More

Environment Canada says file already closed on March Suncor Spill

Suncor spill

Suncor released a photo showing two men drilling into the frozen Athabasca River for water samples to test for toxicity resulting from the March Suncor spill. Photo: Suncor.

Environmental groups are calling on the federal government to investigate a March Suncor spill that leaked waste water into the Athabasca River.

Ecjojustice, speaking on behalf of five groups including Greepeace, sent a letter to Environment Canada requesting that charges be laid against Suncor under the Fisheries Act.

On March 25, 350,000 litres of waste water leaked into the Athabasca River over a period of about 10 hours due to a burst pipe at a Suncor plant near Fort McMurray.

“The information available thus far indicates that there is sufficient evidence to establish that a violation of the Fisheries Act has occurred,” said Melissa Gorrie, staff lawyer at Ecojustice.

“The federal government has the legal authority to hold Suncor to account for polluting one of Alberta’s biggest rivers, but whether it has the will to actually do so remains to be seen.”

Undiluted samples from March Suncor spill killed rainbow trout

Earlier this month an Alberta government investigation concluded the water released from the March Suncor spill was toxic to fish.

Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development said undiluted samples from the spill killed rainbow trout fingerlings exposed to it.

Alberta Environment posted its findings on April 12 in a blog post, saying the rainbow trout used in the test were most likely killed by naphthenic acids, chemicals that occur naturally in bitumen.

But the province said that toxins were diluted in a storage pond before reaching the Athabasca River and the spill did not threaten humans.

“We are currently reviewing the effects of dilution of the process-affected water by both treated water in the combined outfall pipe and the river water,” the province said in the blog spot.

The province said full laboratory results cannot be released as they are considered evidence in the ongoing investigation into the incident.

On April 13, Suncor said that based on test results taken at the Athabasca River, the leaked water “had no detrimental impact on aquatic life.”

The company says they are expecting additional test results from Fort Chipewyan, about 250 km downstream from the leak, soon and a final report will be available by the end of April.

Environment Canada closes the file on March Suncor spill

According to media reports, Environment Canada has already closed the file on the leak, despite the fact the provincial government is still performing tests on the water.

Environment Canada spokeswoman Jirina Vlk sent an email to Canadian Press that said “there was not sufficient evidence to indicate a violation of the Fisheries Act.”

“Even though the tar sands are one of the biggest industrial projects on the planet, Canadians can’t get definitive answers on what’s being released into our air and water,” said Mike Hudema, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada.

“The Federal government likes to talk tough when it comes to the tar sands — it’s time some of its actions matched its rhetoric.”

“Incidents like this illustrate the very real risks associated with oil sands operations,” said Gorrie.

“Canadians have the right to know how oilsands production impacts our air, water and land.”


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Category: Energy

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