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NEWS: Liberals release report on water and the tar sands

The Edmonton Journal reports that, “Liberal members of a House of Commons environmental committee issued a report Wednesday calling for dramatically increased levels of federal research to study water issues related to oilsands development.”

“The study was launched more than two years ago on a motion from Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia, chairman of the national Liberal water caucus. Expert testimony was offered in hearings held in Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray, Fort Chipewyan and Ottawa. The committee decided in June it would not release a draft report. Scarpaleggia said because that decision was made in camera, he would be in contempt of Parliament if he discussed why it wasn’t released.” (The Council of Canadians action alert calling for the release of the House of Commons committee’s report can be read here

“The Liberals have drawn their own conclusions about the testimony. They say there is ample evidence that oilsands development is negatively affecting the Athabasca River watershed, despite the oft-repeated views of both industry and governments that any perceived contamination of the river comes from natural sources.” The Canadian Press adds that, “The report says toxic seepage from the tailing ponds and surface water run-off may be contaminating the Athabasca River. Moreover, the oilsands extraction process requires vast amounts of water drawn from the river, potentially lowering water levels and harming fish and fish habitat.”

The Journal notes, “The 15 recommendations in the report would require a major investment in water research by the federal government. They call for intensive water quality studies of the Athabasca River and of area groundwater supplies. The report says further study on cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan is necessary to determine the possible health effects of oilsands activity. …The report says the federal government is ignoring its responsibilities under the Fisheries Act, which prohibits the deposit of deleterious substances into fish-bearing waters. Industry is breaking this rule by depositing contaminants in the river through leaky tailings ponds and airborne sources, the report says.” The Canadian Press adds, “They also want the government to conduct year-round monitoring of the river’s water quality, overseen by independent experts. And they want the government to fund research into the impact of the oilsands on fish, wetlands and water levels.”

The 49-page report ‘The Hidden Dimension: Water and the Oil Sands’ can be read here. The Tyee adds that, “Both the New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois will also issue reports on their reading of public testimony on what is arguably the most important and divisive economic development in the nation’s history.”

The Edmonton Journal article is at http://www.edmontonjournal.com/business/Research+water+issues+Liberals/3416691/story.html The Canadian Press report is at http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2010/08/18/edmonton-alberta-freshwater-report-liberals.html The Tyee.ca article can be read here.