30 blue herons found dead at Alberta oilsands site

WATCH ABOVE: About 30 blue herons were found dead at the Syncrude Canada Mildred Lake oilsands mine site north of Fort McMurray. Lisa Wolansky has the details.

EDMONTON — The Alberta Energy Regulator is investigating the deaths of about 30 blue herons at an oilsands site north of Fort McMurray.

Bob Curran, a spokesperson with the AER, said one bird was found covered in oil Wednesday at the Syncrude Canada Mildred Lake oilsands mine site. It was alive, but had to be euthanized, Curran said over the phone Saturday.

“It had oil on it so they contacted Fish and Wildlife and requested permission to euthanize it,” said Curran.

Syncrude staff  investigated the site further and found other dead birds. They were reported to the AER on Friday.

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“They were close to a sump which is a low area where runoff fluids gather. And there was some bitumen there which impacted the one bird that they found this week and euthanized. The others were outside of that area so it’s unclear what the cause of death was.”

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It’s not yet known exactly when the birds died.

“Some of them have been dead longer than others. We are going to have to make that determination once our staff have arrived on the site,” he said.

“They were in different stages of decomposition so we don’t know how long they were dead at this time.”

The cause of the birds’ death is under investigation. The AER said it is working with departments from the provincial government to ensure that all safety, wildlife and environmental requirements are being met.

Syncrude, which operates one of the biggest oilsands sites north of Fort McMurray, was fined $3 million for the deaths of more than 1,600 ducks when they landed on its tailings pond in 2008.

In November 2014, about 30 birds died after landing on a tailings pond at Syncrude’s Mildred Lake facility. In total, 122 waterfowl died after landing on three sites, including the CNRL Horizon facility and Suncor Energy’s tailings pond.

READ MORE: 122 birds dead after landing on three separate oilsands sites

The AER said all oilsands mines wildlife deterrent programs, including the Mildred Lake facility, are regularly inspected in response to previous bird deaths at the facilities.


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