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  •  flooding near Fort McMurray threatens to breach (6+ / 0-)

    tailing ponds and nearby rivers.

    Fort McMurray, Home to 176 Square km of Tar Sands Tailings Ponds, Overwhelmed by Floods
    On Friday the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), the Alberta government's industry regulator, released a report stating that tar sands companies have failed to comply with pre-existing agreements to limit the amount of water used in tar sands extraction and processing as well as the amount of polluted water that ends up in the region's growing toxic tailings ponds.

    The release of the report coincides with massive floods near Fort McMurray, wreaking havoc on the city's infrastructure. Since Friday the region has seen between 80 and 180mm of precipitation. Major highways have been closed, roads have been partially washed out, buildings flooded and homes evacuated. The city of Fort McMurray officially declared a state of emergency today, while unseasonably high temperatures prompt snow melt and rain is forecast to continue throughout the week.

    The immediate question is apparent: what threat does the flooding pose to the massive tailings ponds lining the Athabasca River and the millions of litres of toxic contaminants they contain?

    According to recent industry figures, tailings ponds, which hold the billions of litres of contaminated waste water used in bitumen extraction and processing, cover 176 square kilometres of the tar sands region.

    There are some good maps and photos of the affected area at the link above and it is a grim reminder of the climate crisis feeding into the danger from the tar sands.
    Jesse Cardinal from the Keepers of the Athabasca said today, "We are definitely concerned about the flooding..."

    "[These] are the highest ever recorded amounts [for water levels] and Fort McMurray is on a boil water advisory...What are the downstream effects?"

    A recent study released by Environment Canada states that pollution from the tar sands has affected the water in areas as far away as 100 km from Fort McMurray. Tar sands related toxins, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), are known to be fatal to young fish during the developmental stage.

    In February, internal government documents released through Access to Information legislation confirmed tailings ponds were leaking into local groundwater. Further concerns about contamination are growing with the rising river levels.

    This morning Suncor Energy, a major tar sands company, announced via facebook that a road near its MacKay River in situ project had suffered damage from the heavy rains, saying employees were being advised to ration water until transport plans could be addressed. Another of Suncor's facilities, pictured below, lies on the banks of the Athabasca River, with tailings ponds and other water-holding facilities separated from the rising river by narrow berms.

    Here's some info on the Mackenzie River...

    The Mackenzie is Canada's longest river, beginning in the Columbia Icefield in the Canadian Rockies and runs 1,800 km to the Arctic Ocean. Major tributary rivers, include the Peace, Athabasca, Liard, Hay, Peel, South Nahanni and Slave. Some 45,000 lakes are in the Mackenzie Basin including the Great Slave, Great Bear and Athabasca.(all emphasis mine)

    without the ants the rainforest dies

    by aliasalias on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 12:45:45 PM PDT

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