Friday, February 21, 2014

Tarsands tailing ponds leaking; scientist muzzled

Federal study confirms oilsands tailings found in groundwater, river

The least surprising thing about this CP story on Environment Canada research indicating water from tarsands tailings ponds is leaching into groundwater and seeping into the Athabasca River is the by now depressingly familiar way the lead Environment Canada scientist was muzzled from speaking about it.

FirstNews of the study, published here in the Environmental Science and Technology journal in January, followed up by a good outline of the study from the CP reporter.

Second, muzzling of the lead scientist by an Environment Canada media relations guy who nonetheless provides the reporter with an opinion of his own :
"Environment Canada said it was unable to provide an interview with the report's main author, Richard Frank.
In an email, department spokesman Danny Kingsberry downplayed its findings.
despite the study's published conclusion that :
"These samples included two of upward flowing groundwater collected < 1 m beneath the Athabasca River, suggesting oil sands process-affected groundwater is reaching the river system."
This is apparently what EC spokesy Danny Kingsberry does for a living.

Third : No problem however getting interview quotes from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers that "the quality of water in the Athabasca River remains good" and 
"While the research technique used in this study shows some potential, further detailed work is required to evaluate its accuracy and adequacy for tracking oil sands process water." 
All of which reminded me of that parliamentary Environment Committee that destroyed the results of its own 18 month study of the tarsands pollution and water three and a half years ago. 
Dr. David Schindler, founding director of the Experimental Lakes Area project, had just testified about his own damning research into airborne tarsands contaminants found in the snow pack along the Athabasca River. He explained his project was "set up to examine the claim of industry and the Alberta government that no pollution from the oil sands industry gets into the Athabasca River."  
He further offered his opinion that oil companies' reports on contaminants are duly submitted to Environment Canada but EC is being muzzled and prevented from making the findings public -- after which the Environment Committee went in camera for the next seven sessions before destroying their report to the public and agreeing to cease their study of the oil sands and Canada's water resources altogether. 

Most of the members of that committee are still sitting in the House, including Justin Trudeau who I hear is giving quite a lot of interviews lately. Maybe some enterprising journo/accredited blogger could ask him wtf happened there. 


Kev said...

Thanks Alison I shall add this one to the list of things Trudeau supports. that's the list Liberals and their supports refuse to answer questions about.

Minor little details such as Do you support your leader's policies on KXL, FIPA, CETA and free trade with the murderous coup leaders in Honduras?

Well ok I have received one response,"We have to pretend to believe in these things to beat the Conservatives

It seems we now have two federal parties where the cult of personality is all consuming.

Alison said...

Hi Kev. Agree that the old Lib election strategy of campaigning leftish in order to govern from the right has now been replaced with campaigning from the right right off the bat to peel off the soft con vote.

That said, my complaint here is not specifically with Trudeau's actions on the committee - he was a surprisingly tough questioner of the witnesses actually. Tonks voted for him in the end and we don't know how Tonks voted.

What pissed me off is that rather than present the House with a report that included a minority dissenting voice, they agreed instead to scuttle months of really important informative testimony from Dr. John O'Connor, Andrew Nikiforuk, and David Schindler on the effects of the tarsands on groundwater, surface water, and the Athabaska River. This included such bizarre events as tabled industry reports saying their tailings ponds do leak, only to have the Environment Canada deputy minister say no they don't!
even though EnviroCan relies on those same industry reports to make up their own.
Bah. Should have been dealt with three years ago and it just didn't happen. Epic fail.

thwap said...

Shared this on facebook Alison. I didn't know what else to say or do.

Alison said...

That's great, Thwap, thanks.
Pretty good media coverage on this report actually.

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