Toronto – In the wake of an independent panel concluding that water monitoring in the tar sands is inadequate, environmentalists are calling on Ottawa to bypass the Alberta government in order to fully enforce the pollution provisions of the federal Fisheries Act. Even before today’s release of the panel’s findings, the Alberta government tried to pre-empt federal action by announcing its own lengthy process to fix water monitoring in the tar sands, after maintaining for years that nothing was wrong.
“The Alberta government is the tar sands most shameless cheerleader and, therefore, unfit to monitor and regulate the industry,” said Matt Price, campaigns director with Environmental Defence. “The federal law against water pollution is quite clear, yet Ottawa has turned its duties over to Alberta, who in turn, has turned them over to the industry, in a classic case of the fox minding the henhouse.”
Former federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice struck the independent panel of scientists to review tar sands water monitoring following the showing of deformed fish from downriver of the tar sands. The panel found deficiencies in sampling design, lack of hypothesis driven sampling regimes, ill-defined or undefined baseline conditions and inadequate analytical capabilities.
Section 36(3) of the federal Fisheries Act contains a blanket prohibition on putting substances deleterious to fish in waters frequented by them. Yet, the federal government has never enforced this provision in the tar sands, despite there being evidence of toxic substances from tar sands activities making their way into rivers, and despite the fact that tar sands tailings ponds are designed to leak millions of litres of toxic materials a day into the region’s groundwater.
“Ottawa must bypass the discredited greenwashing efforts of the Alberta government and establish its own water pollution monitoring in the tar sands, as a foundation to enforce the federal Fisheries Act,” said Price. “Then, actual enforcement will mean laying charges against companies who put toxic materials into waters frequented by fish or into waters – including groundwater – that fish may come into contact with.”
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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Stephanie Kohls, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext. 232; 647-280-9521 (cell)