Read

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

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

Bernie Sanders, Berning of America, Occupy movement, political revolution

What’s happening in America right now doesn’t come as a surprise to those who have been trying to shed light on so many social injustices our country is facing.

Dan Price became a media sensation when he announced that the minimum wage at his company, Gravity Payments, would rise to $70,000 a year, but Forbes unearthed fraud on a massive scale.

According to records obtained by New York Civil Liberties Union, the country's most powerful police force tracks cellphones using "stingrays," which have no guiding legal policy.

Wikileaks, Julian Assange, Ecuadorian embassy, political persecution

The WikiLeaks founder has been arbitrarily detained by the U.K. and Sweden for more than five years and should be released immediately with compensation, according to a Geneva-based UN working group on arbitrary detention.

Keystone XL pipeline, tar sands, bitumen, carbon emissions, TransCanada, Enbridge, Stephen Harper, Energy East pipeline, TransMountain pipeline, Northern Gateway, Warren Buffet, First Nations

A major obstacle facing new oil transport projects is the strong resistance from Canada’s indigenous First Nations, who own or claim much of the land that the proposed pipelines would cross.

U.K. housing prices, soaring home prices, soaring rent costs, Eviction Resistance, housing bubble mortgage-backed securities, Great Recession, rising homelessness

Housing prices in London have risen by 50% in the last five years – and when the UK property bubble goes boom, it will be proportionally bigger than the U.S. housing bust at the onset of the financial crisis in 2007.

Posted 4 days 8 hours ago
Paris climate accord, COP21, carbon emissions, 2 degrees C, emissions reductions, renewable energy transition, renewable energy investments, clean energy investments, solar power, wind power, fossil fuel divestment

Changing the way the world is powered means big spending – and huge investment opportunities – with energy finance models suggesting clean power investments need to rise by an additional 75 percent, to $12.1 trillion, in the next 25 years.

Posted 3 days 7 hours ago

We need a guaranteed income to ensure that the benefits of 60 years of U.S. prosperity go to all Americans – not just to the few who know how to redistribute the nation’s wealth.

Posted 2 days 4 hours ago
income inequality, wealth inequality, rigged economy, economy of the 1%

Economic inequality inspired Occupy Wall Street, which transformed our political discourse with the concept of the “1 percent” and the “99 percent,” and today the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders is altering the political landscape.

Posted 1 day 8 hours ago
Wikileaks, Julian Assange, Ecuadorian embassy, political persecution

The WikiLeaks founder has been arbitrarily detained by the U.K. and Sweden for more than five years and should be released immediately with compensation, according to a Geneva-based UN working group on arbitrary detention.

Posted 1 day 8 hours ago
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, corporate trade deals, Investment Court System, German Magistrates Association, Investor State Dispute Settlement, ISDS, Global Justice Now

The German Magistrates Association (DRB) last week dealt a major blow to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, as judges said special courts allowing firms to sue countries were unnecessary and "had no legal basis."

income inequality, wealth inequality, rigged economy, economy of the 1%

Economic inequality inspired Occupy Wall Street, which transformed our political discourse with the concept of the “1 percent” and the “99 percent,” and today the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders is altering the political landscape.

Keystone XL pipeline, tar sands, TransCanada, carbon emissions, pipeline projects, NAFTA, corporate trade deals, Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, Investor State Dispute Settlement, ISDS

The Canadian oil giant is suing under the provisions of NAFTA because the U.S. rejected the Keystone pipeline – and demanding an amount that would cover annual community college tuition costs for nearly five million U.S. students.

U.K. housing prices, soaring home prices, soaring rent costs, Eviction Resistance, housing bubble mortgage-backed securities, Great Recession, rising homelessness

Housing prices in London have risen by 50% in the last five years – and when the UK property bubble goes boom, it will be proportionally bigger than the U.S. housing bust at the onset of the financial crisis in 2007.