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NEWS: Report on tar sands water monitoring program expected by November 17

The Globe and Mail reports today that, “Canada’s Environment Minister (Jim Prentice) will review the Alberta agency responsible for overseeing water quality in rivers around the province’s oil sands, including the Athabasca River. …He’s going to commission a Canada-wide panel of researchers to review whether the model used by Alberta’s Regional Aquatic Monitoring Program is appropriate. The agency is led by industry and the provincial government, but is criticized by environmentalists as toothless.”

The panel is expected to give their recommendations to Prentice “within the next two months”, so presumably no later than November 17.

David Schindler, who has consistently raised concerns about RAMP, says, “I am hopeful that EC [Environment Canada] will take over the monitoring, but as I told the Minister, they will need new resources to do the job well.”

The minister’s decision to review RAMP was prompted by the discovery of deformed fish downstream of the tar sands. More on that in ‘NEWS: O’Connor raises concerns about deformed fish near tar sands’ at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=4601.

A December 2009 campaign blog at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=2395 notes that the Canadian Press reported: “(A) study (that suggests pollution from Alberta’s oilsands is nearly five times greater and twice as widespread as industry figures say), published in the U.S.-based Proceedings of National Academy of Science, also takes direct aim at Alberta’s monitoring program. ‘Our study confirms the serious defects of the (regional aquatic monitoring program),’ it says. ‘More than 10 years of inconsistent sampling design, inadequate statistical power and monitoring-insensitive responses have missed major sources of (contamination) to the Athabasca watershed. …(David) Schindler said nothing has changed in the province’s monitoring program since it was criticized in a 2004 review.” E & E News adds that, “The (Alberta) government has relied in part on the industry-funded joint Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP) to monitor aquatic ecosystems near the oil sands sites. But RAMP lacks scientific oversight and keeps its methods and its data confidential, the study said. …RAMP has not measured PACs for several years after its tests revealed little or no water pollution, Schindler said. …RAMP should submit to oversight by an independent board of experts and make its data available for public scrutiny, the authors said.”

The Globe and Mail article is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/albertas-water-watchdog-under-tighter-scrutiny-over-oil-sands/article1712995/?cmpid=rss1.