Canada must monitor oil sands pollution

The Canadian government has been criticised for failing to ensure satisfactory environmental monitoring of its Alberta oil sands.

The Oil Sands Advisory Panel has reported back to the government after they were commissioned by former environment minister Jim Prentice.

The panel of scientists were appointed in September after concerns were raised by an academic report which found that oil sands plants were polluting the waterways with toxins including mercury and arsenic.

The report also raised questions about the monitoring systems design and implementation.

The western Canada oil sands are a huge source of crude oil but critics say they produce harmful greenhouse gases and toxins in the extraction process.

The Advisory Panel echoed the concerns of the academic report, concluding that there were severe shortcomings in the existing monitoring systems.

The Panel chair, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, said: “The minister asked the panel whether or not Canadians had a first-class, state-of-the-art monitoring system in place in the oil sands.

“In the view of the panel, the answer is no.”

They recommended that an effective system be set up and that the industry itself should be responsible for financing a new monitoring system.

The Alberta government has already set up a panel to plan a new monitoring system. In Ottawa, federal environment minister John Baird said he would act immediately on plans to set up a new monitoring water programme which would be in place within 90 days.

Alison Brown

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie