A recent peer-reviewed study from researchers including University of Alberta Professor David Schindler has raised some serious questions about the level of oil sands caused toxins in the Athabasca River and the regime that is supposed to monitor these toxin levels. Speaking to the media, Dr. Schindler offered some strong words against claims by the government and industry that the toxin levels are natural.
Environment Minister Rob Renner responded by telling reporters that his scientists have told him that the amount of compounds detected in the Athabasca River are “not a concern and are of insignificant levels.” Liberal leader David Swann and NDP MLA Rachel Notley jumped on the opportunity and offered their support for Dr. Schindler’s report. Wildrose Alliance MLAs have remained suspiciously silent on this important environmental debate.
The Stand with Fort Chipewyan group reminded Albertans that this is not the first time the toxins issue has been raised:
“When Fort Chipewyan residents demanded the government look into whether oilsands activity was contributing to the community’s high cancer rates, they were denied. They were denied because the government’s monitoring system — R.A.M.P. — indicated that there was no impact.”
And 48 hours after the report became public, Premier Ed Stelmach called for a probe:
“We’ll have the scientists sit down and compare the data. Some of the measurements, I couldn’t explain to you, but let it be discussed scientist to scientist.”
Considering that the provincial government’s current strategy to clean up the oil sands appears to revolve largely on public relations campaigns, it may take much more than simple reassurances from the Premier’s “top men” to resolve this issue: