Study Links Environmental Toxins to Alberta Tar Sands

by: Heather on 08/30/2010
Posted in: Climate Change

I woke up this morning to a story on the CBC website linking toxins found in the Athabasca River to the mining of the Alberta Tar Sands. Now I wish I could say that the discovery of the toxins came as a shock, but obviously it didn't, given the proximity of the Athabasca River to what Mark Morford so memorably called "the oversized eco nightmare that is Canada's monstrous, pollutive, disgusting hellholes of rapacious greed and pollution and destruction and sheer capitalistic joy".

No, the shock in this story, the one that caused my jaw to hit the floor and, by the tone of their comments, apparently caused the collective eyes of seven hundred and counting CBC readers to roll so far back into their collective skulls that all they could see was their own grey matter - the shock was this bit:

The findings counter the reports by a joint industry-government panel that the pollutant levels are due to natural sources rather than human development.

So basically, until an independently financed study debunked it, the party line agreed upon and promoted by government and industry was that the mercury, thallium and other pollutants accumulated in higher concentrations downstream from the tar sands operations as a result of natural erosion rather than human activity.

It gets better.

The body that has provided the data arguing that the water quality of the Athabasca River has not been affected by the tar sands development is called the Regional Aquatic Monitoring Program (RAMP). A quick visit to RAMP's website revealed this information (in the first paragraph, no less):

RAMP is an industry-funded, multi-stakeholder environmental monitoring program initiated in 1997.

Industry-funded, eh? Well they ought to be impartial. I mean, they are making millions of dollars for their shareholders on the tar sands projects, but why would that affect their objectivity? Right?

This is on a par with the tobacco industry trotting out study after study saying "Hey, no, smoking won't kill you. Really. We promise."

What is wrong with our ability to think critically as a society, or to hold our governments and leaders to account when they so clearly fail to do so?

Commenter "sebibear" says it so well:

To the oil-sands companies and our leaders who could but do not change this... you are soulless. May you drink to your own health from the mighty and beautiful Athabasca river (preferably downstream from the oil sands).

There's a slogan on the Government of Alberta's website, in the section devoted to the tar sands. It says "Alberta. Tell it like it is." Yes Alberta, tell it like it is. No more deception or industry-funded lies. Please Alberta, come clean and tell it like it is. Take some responsibility, before it's too late.


blog comments powered by Disqus