Syncrude facing new charges for deaths of 31 great blue herons in 2015

Syncrude facing new charges for deaths of 31 great blue herons in 2015 by Vincent McDermott, Fort McMurray Today, November 1, 2017, Edmonton Journal

Syncrude Canada is facing two new federal charges for allegedly destroying or disturbing a nest or egg, following the deaths of 31 great blue herons in August 2015.

The oilsands company has been charged with two counts under the Migratory Bird Convention Act for allegedly depositing, or allowing the deposit of, a substance harmful to migratory birds into waters frequented by them.

Syncrude was found guilty under the same act in 2010, after 1,606 ducks died after landing in a tailings pond at the company’s Aurora site in 2008. The company paid a $3-million fine and introduced a waterfowl protection plan to deter a repeat event.

Syncrude is also being charged by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) regarding the same incident.

Last August, the regulator announced it had charged the company under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act for allegedly “failing to store a hazardous substance in a manner that ensures that it does not come into direct contact with, or contaminate, animals.” [But no charges for Encana injecting and releasing hazardous substances directly into a community’s drinking water aquifers, contaminating humans, and putting lives at risk from explosion]

If convicted, that charge carries a possible penalty of $500,000.

The new charges were announced Wednesday in Fort McMurray provincial court. Syncrude spokesperson Will Gibson said the company’s lawyers will review the new charges before entering a plea.

Syncrude’s next appearance in court on the matter is Dec. 13, 2017.

According to the AER, Syncrude employees found an injured heron near an abandoned sump at the company’s Mildred Lake site on Aug. 5, 2015.

An extensive search found another 30 herons near the sump. Of the 31 birds discovered, the injured one had to be euthanized.

The area the herons were discovered in contained runoff water and bitumen [and what toxic solvents used in bitumen extraction?], the AER said in a statement released after the incident. [Emphasis added]

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