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Syncrude facing new federal charges for great blue heron deaths in 2015

Tailings drain into a pond at the Syncrude oilsands mine facility near Fort McMurray, Alta., Wednesday, July 9, 2008.
Tailings drain into a pond at the Syncrude oilsands mine facility near Fort McMurray, Alta., Wednesday, July 9, 2008. Jeff McIntosh, The Canadian Press

Two new federal charges were laid Wednesday against Syncrude Canada in connection with the deaths of 31 great blue herons two years ago.

READ MORE: 30 blue herons found dead at Alberta oilsands site

The company has been charged by Environment and Climate Change Canada 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.

The birds were found at the company’s Mildred Lake oil sands mine north of Fort McMurray, Alta. The discovery was reported to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) on Aug. 7, 2015.

“They were close to a sump, which is a low area where runoff fluids gather,” Bob Curran with the AER said at the time. “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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READ MORE: Syncrude charged after 31 great blue herons found dead near Fort McMurray in 2015 

Syncrude was also charged by the AER for the same incident. In August of this year, the company was charged with one count under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act of failing to store a hazardous substance in a manner that it does not come into direct contact with, or contaminate, animals.

The company faces a fine of up to $500,000 if convicted.

READ MORE: Someone shot this great blue heron so bad, it couldn’t stand up or defend itself 

Syncrude appeared in provincial court in Fort McMurray on Nov. 1 to answer to the charges.

Global News has reached out to Syncrude for comment.

READ MORE: Environmental protection order issued to Syncrude after bird deaths at Alberta oilsands site

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.

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– With files from Kirby Bourne, 630 CHED and Caley Ramsay, Global News