Oilsands tailings leaking into groundwater, Joe Oliver told in memo by Mike De Souza, February 17, 2013, Edmonton Journal
Tailings ponds from oilsands production are leaking and contaminating Alberta’s groundwater, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was told in an internal memo obtained by Postmedia News. The memo, released through access to information legislation, said that federal government scientists, including Quebec City-based research geoscientist Martine Savard, had discovered evidence of the contamination in new research that rejected longstanding claims that toxins in the region of the Athabasca River were coming from natural sources. “The studies have, for the first time, detected potentially harmful, mining-related organic acid contaminants in the groundwater outside a long-established out-of-pit tailings pond,” said the memo from deputy minister Serge Dupont, dated June 19, 2012. “This finding is consistent with publicly available technical reports of seepage — both projected from theory, and detected in practice.” The study was published by Savard and 18 other co-authors and posted to an online government database in December. … Environment Canada describes groundwater contamination as a serious problem since aquifers can remain contaminated for decades or centuries, leaking into lakes, rivers or streams, while potentially creating costly water supply problems.
Travis Davies, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the information about leaks from tailings ponds was not a surprise…. “Their study isn’t new in any way other than perhaps the laboratory methods and detection limits,” Davies said in an email, adding that the industry association supports science-based monitoring and peer-reviewed research. “We also know and report on the chemistry of groundwater from our monitoring wells that surround tailings facilities. So again, (there’s) no surprise.” Prior to the memo’s release, the association’s oilsands website said the existing monitoring programs had “not detected impacts from tailings ponds seepage on surface water or to groundwater.” Jennifer Grant, the oilsands program director with the Alberta-based Pembina Institute, an environmental policy research organization, noted that Environment Canada says prevention is the best solution to groundwater contamination. “It’s really challenging to assess the impact and it’s expensive to clean up a contaminated aquifer, if it can be done at all,” said Grant in an interview. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
New policy gives Harper government power to muzzle DFO scientists “The most disconcerting elements to the new policy are that they will apply to all scientific submissions, including those co-authored by non-DFO scientists, and that DFO managers have been given a hammer that they have not previously been able to wield: the withholding of copyright permission to allow for the publication of an article that has been externally peer-reviewed and accepted for publication by a scientific journal.” ]