November 27, 2014 6:38 pm

Oilsands tailings ponds emit pollutants into the air, study confirms

A tailings pond is picture at the Syncrude oilsands facility seen from a helicopter near Fort McMurray, Alta., July 10, 2012.


EDMONTON – New government research is confirming that the oilsands tailings ponds are releasing toxic chemicals into the air.

In addition, the amount of the contaminants from the ponds could be almost five times as high as previous estimates for entire oilsands operations.

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The paper estimates that more than a tonne of cancer-causing chemicals called PAHs are released into the region’s air every year from the ponds.

Author Elisabeth Galarneau says it’s not clear where those toxins go once in the air, so she can’t say what the environmental impact might be. Previous research used mathematical modelling to conclude the vast ponds were releasing chemicals, but Galarneau’s work involved actual measurements in the field.

READ MORE: Alberta researcher offers unique perspective on tailings ponds 

The research, to be published next month in a scientific journal, was conducted by Environment Canada under the federal and provincial government’s joint oilsands monitoring program.

© 2014 The Canadian Press

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