If you wanted to update the public about the toxicity results from a 2,200 barrel pipe rupture on Suncor’s tar sands facility, how and when would you do it?

If you answered “I’d post it on an obscure blog on Friday afternoon”, then you either have something to hide and/or you’re the Alberta government.

The Government of Alberta didn’t bother issuing a news release when it revealed that the ‘processed water’ that leaked from a pipe at Suncor’s tar sands facility was toxic it just posted it on the blog. 

While we still don’t have a full picture of what was in Suncor’s toxic brew that spilled from a broken pipe over a 10 hour period, but here are a few things we do know:

  • It failed an acute toxicity test. This is the test you fail if fish are put into the water and over 50% of them die. The government said that it was likely due to napthenic acids, a particularly nasty set of toxics.
  • It exceeded chronic guidelines for metals like arsenic, boron, selenium, cadmium, and zinc. Did I say arsenic, yes, yes I did.
  • Cloride and ammonia were also present and above chronic aquatic life guidelines.
  • PAH’s (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) aka cancer causing chemicals were also present.
  • Pyrene was twice the chronic guideline.

Orville Grandjambe pulls a deformed whitefish out of his net on the river Quatrefouche, a tributary to Lake Athabasca, northern Alberta. In recent years, the frequency of deformities, lesions and cancers found in fish caught in Lake Athabasca has increased dramatically. Local residents suspect the rapidly expanding tar sands operations further upstream as the cause of their health concerns. Photo Credit: Jiri Rezak / Greenpeace.

This ‘water’ was so toxic that it would kill the fish that swam in it. It was full of chemicals like arsenic, ammonia, chloride, and cancer-causing chemicals like PAH’s that stay in the environment and become more concentrated as the move up the food chain.

We still don’t have the full toxicity results only what the government posted on the obscure blog. The government says it can’t release them as they are part of an ‘ongoing investigation’.

I wonder what the Alberta government has to hide?

Why won’t they release all the test results? Why didn’t they send a news release about these results? And why do we still not know basic questions like: what happened in the 7 hrs and 45 mins before the government was notified of the spill, was it a company employee or a local resident that first discovered the spill, how close was it to the Athabasca river and when will the public get all the pictures of the event?

It’s time for some answers, Premier Redford.