As we still wait for very basic answers regarding the Suncor burst pipe that for 10 hours spewed toxic water into the Athabasca river, the Government of Alberta released information late Thursday of another startling toxic incident that happened in 2011 on the same Suncor tar sands site as Monday’s disaster.
In March 2011, industrial waste flowed into the river killing fish from the same Suncor tar sands site for three days. Yet Suncor and the Alberta Government never issued a press release about the incident when it happened, downstream communities never received details of the toxic release, and the public was in the dark about the incident for two-years.
The details were finally revealed 2 years later, released by the Alberta Government late Thursday afternoon right before the Easter long weekend.
The timing of the release is pretty interesting: interesting that it was on the edge of Easter weekend; interesting when you consider such details would likely come to light in any prosecution against Suncor for its spill on Monday; and even more interesting when you consider 2 years is the time limit to bring a private prosecution against the company under the Fisheries Act. Finding out now makes it impossible to bring one.
But timing aside, the toxic release was found to be not within the allowable limits of ‘acute lethality toxicity.” What does that mean?
The toxicity test is based on whether at least 50% of fish used in the test survived being placed in a sample of the industrial water from this pond, which discharged into the Athabasca.
According to the Globe and Mail, Suncor failed that fish test 39 times in the two years since the toxic release and the company still doesn’t know the source of the toxicity.
In spite of this, no charges have been laid, nor has there been any halt to Suncor’s tar sands operations. The company simply has to do some research and better reporting.
This is the ‘world class’ environmental management the Government of Alberta touts around the world – lax regulations, poor oversight, toothless enforcement, few prosecutions for mounting crimes and transparency as clear as a tar sands snow globe.
P.S. In case you missed it, we had two other Alberta oil related spills last week. One was a spill from a train in Minnesota that released hundreds of barrels of oil, and a 12,000 barrel spill in a residential neighbourhood in Arkansas.