Tags: mercury | tar | sands | ring | canada | oil | operations

Mercury Tar Sands Ringing Canada Oil Operation Prompt Concerns

Tuesday, 31 Dec 2013 08:07 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A ring of mercury has formed around tar sand operations in Canada, renewing concerns from environmentalists that the controversial oil production technique will lead to contaminated water and land for those living in close proximity to the site.

The 7,300-square-mile ring of mercury contaminated land and water that surrounds a tar sands operation in Alberta is part of a published report government scientists are preparing in which they claim that mercury levels see a 16-time increase around tar-sand operations, the Vancouver Sun reported.

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According to the scientists, the reason for the increase is primarily due to the excavation and transportation of bitumen in the sands by oil and gas companies, the Vancouver Sun noted.

Jane Kirk, a scientist with Environment Canada, presented the evidence at a recent toxicology conference in Nashville, Tenn., and will reportedly be including the data, along with other findings, in a more conclusive study to be published in 2014.

According to Canadian federal scientists, mercury is "the number one concern" when it comes to metal toxins generated by tar sand operations, the Vancouver Sun reported.

Brain damage is among the negative side effects mercury can cause in all living creatures.

As part of their 2014 study, scientists with Environment Canada are already testing what affects the mercury is having on area wildlife by testing birds eggs recovered from the Alberta site as well as what implications it might have for the overall environment through conducting a series of tests on area snow which eventually runs off as water.

The demand for growing regulation on such operations has risen in recent years due to the proposed Keystone Pipeline XL project, which involves the construction of a heavy-oil pipeline stretching some 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada, to oil refinement facilities along the United State’s Gulf Coast.

Whereas advocates for the pipeline argue its construction will lead to U.S. job creation and energy independence for the region, environmentalists have long protested the measure, saying that it will lead to increased production of oil through tar sand operations, which will in turn lead to an increase in carbon emissions, and the further contamination of land and water supplies for nearby residents.

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