The shame of being a Canadian, as we are powerless to stop this monstrosity in the tarsands
“Every major oil company in the world is present in the tar sands as it currently produces 1.3 million barrels a day. By 2018 it’s projected to reach 3 million barrels a day. Each barrel of tar sands oil requires 3 barrels of Athabasca or Peace River water.
The tar sands guzzle water in a semi-arid climate that relies upon a diminishing Rocky Mountain snowpack that feeds the headwaters of both the Athabasca and Peace Rivers. Shell’s Albian Sands project sucks 1.9 billion cubic feet of water a year from the Athabasca River. Imperial’s (mostly owned by Exxon) Kearl project siphons another 3.7 billion cubic feet from the Athabasca. In fact, all the other projects take over 76 percent of all the water from the Athabasca River.
Global warming is taking a bite out of everything and every industry on the planet. 2010 was the warmest year ever recorded in Canada and temperatures in the north-country were 11 degrees warmer than normal. Will the Athabasca River carry enough water to meet the profligate water demands of 100 tar sands projects in the coming decade?
Steam-mining bitumen from the tar sands produces at least 30 million pounds of salts and water-solvent carcinogens a year, which are trucked to landfills. Arsenic, a cancer-causing heavy metal, is also a by-product of bitumen mining, and it has a propensity of seeping insidiously into ground water from landfills.
Most of the contaminated wastewaters or tailings are stored in toxic ponds along the Athabasca River. These ponds are so large that they are visible from space; astronauts have confused them with lakes.
Each pond is about 240 feet deep and contains toxic sludge filled with phenols, benzene, cyanide, arsenic and dozens of other known cancer-causing agents including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
Experts have estimated that the tailing ponds contain 7 billion cubic yards of sludge, of which one billion cubic yards are fine deadly tailings. Many of these ponds are located on the banks of the Athabasca River, and should an accident occur like the Hungarian alumina fiasco of October 2010 the Arctic Ocean would become toxic.
The tar sands oil is eventually refined just east of Edmonton, a city of a million people. University of California Irvine scientists found the air pollution levels in Upgrader Alley were comparable to those of the most polluted cities on the face of the Earth.
Mining the tar sands is leaving a colossal global footprint, which has risen 27 percent since 1990; in fact, Canada has the highest increased, heat-trapping, greenhouse gas emissions of any industrial nation on the globe.