Researchers Find 7,300-Mile Ring of Mercury Around Alberta Tar Sands in Canada

Search form

Researchers Find 7,300-Mile Ring of Mercury Around Alberta Tar Sands in Canada

Researchers Find 7,300-Mile Ring of Mercury Around Alberta Tar Sands in Canada
Tue, 12/31/2013 - by Peter Moskowitz
This article originally appeared on Al Jazeera America

Scientists have found a nearly 7,500-square-mile ring of land and water contaminated by mercury surrounding the tar sands in Alberta, where energy companies are producing oil and shipping it throughout Canada and the U.S.

Government scientists are preparing to publish a report that found levels of mercury are up to 16 times higher around the tar-sand operations — principally due to the excavation and transportation of bitumen in the sands by oil and gas companies,according to Postmedia-owned Canadian newspapers like The Vancouver Sun.

Environment Canada researcher Jane Kirk recently presented the findings at a toxicology conference in Nashville, Tenn.

The revelations add to growing concerns over the environmental impact of mining the tar sands. Many environmentalists charge that extracting oil from the sands will lead to an increase in carbon emissions, the destruction of the land, water contamination and health problems for Canadians.

The debate over the tar sands crossed over into the United States when energy company TransCanada proposed building theKeystone XL pipeline to transport crude oil to the southeastern U.S. for refining and distribution.

Kirk and her colleagues' research shows that the development of the tar sands may be responsible for spreading mercury — which can cause nervous-system damage — far beyond the areas where drilling and transportation are taking place.

The research suggests that the tar-sand development has created a ring of mercury contamination, with areas close to the sands showing much higher levels of mercury than before development.

The researchers collected samples of dirt, snow, birds eggs and other materials from more than 100 sites to perform their analysis.

While the mercury levels found around the sands are still lower than in other parts of Canada (notably around coal plants and incinerators), mercury is particularly worrisome to environmentalists because it can bioaccumulate, meaning it becomes more concentrated as it works its way up the food chain.

In a report published in October, another Canadian researcher found elevated levels of mercury in bird eggs downstream from the tar sands.

Kirk and her team also found traces of methylmercury, a more toxic form of mercury, in snow for the first time in the area.

Originally published by Al Jazeera America

Article Tabs

Sleeping outside for an iPhone is O.K., but do it in furtherance of democratic expression and you’re in trouble, as protesters discovered during the past several weeks at Parliament Square.

Green is no longer unified, if it ever really was – as Bright Green, Lite Green, Deep Green and Dark Green tribes form around divergent environmental worldviews, theories of change, and ranges of tactics.

Do we or do we not as Americans have the right to know what we are eating? Here are initiatives from Hawaii to Colorado and from Humboldt to Josephine Counties to take back our food supply.

In order to help fund their courts, judges may be threatening people with imprisonment for their debts – and more than a third of U.S. states now allow people with debts to be jailed.

The cohesion between pop culture and politics in the 1960s made it easier to access politically charged art and music – something our generation is still searching for today.

Posted 4 days 10 hours ago

Klein's starting point is valuable for the pro-planet movement, showing the walls that are built by the system – and ourselves – to stop climate action.

Posted 2 days 10 hours ago

Heavy industry spending resembles the last-minute infusions of cash for TV ads, mailings, and staff that helped narrowly defeat campaigns for mandatory GMO labeling in California and Washington.

Posted 4 days 11 hours ago

“There are many of us here who are homeless because when we came back from fighting, we couldn’t get a job, we had mental problems and there was no assistance for us anywhere."

Posted 2 days 9 hours ago

It’s a fairly absurd situation and I’d like to document exactly what happened.

Posted 4 days 10 hours ago

With a click of a button, over 6,000 Detroit properties were purchased Tuesday for just over $500 apiece – surprising local government, which had scripted a much different ending.

ALEC-drafted legislation aims to circumvent local ordinances on environmental protection and animal rights.

Concluding the largest Chapter 9 bankruptcy case for a U.S. municipality, financial creditors and pension groups representing public workers clamored to demand payments.

The pro-democracy movement has relied heavily on social media and messaging apps to mobilize protesters – and recent arrests from online activity has a "chilling effect" that "scares people away."

Sign Up