Ottawa orders Imperial to stop spills deemed harmful from Kearl mine

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Ottawa orders Imperial to stop spills deemed harmful from Kearl Mine

The Kearl oil sands site in northern Alberta has been releasing contaminated water into the environment from last May.

Federal inspectors have ruled that a sewage release in Alberta from the oil sands at Imperial Oil's Kearl mine is harmful to wildlife. They order the company to take immediate action to stop seepage from the problem tailings pond.

Based on information available to law enforcement officials to date, the seepage is considered deleterious or harmful to fish, Environment Canada spokesperson Nicole Allen said in a statement. /p>

“On March 10, 2023, enforcement officers issued a directive under the fisheries for Imperial Oil. Management requires immediate action to contain the seepage and prevent it from entering a fish-bearing body of water.

—Nicole Allen, Spokesperson for Environment Canada

For her part, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith maintains that the Kearl leaks have had no impact on wildlife and that drinking water is not compromised in the affected area.

Imperial says it is following government guidelines to deal with the Kearl incident, company spokeswoman Lisa Schmidt said in an email.

We are responding to direction given by Environment Canada officials following their visit to Imperial's Kearl site last week and have installed surface water pumps in the area to prevent seepage from entering in a body of water with fish, she writes.

Environment Canada will continue to monitor the cleanup of discharges, says Nicole Allen.

Inspectors will return to the Kearl site in the coming days to assess what steps Imperial has taken to stop seepage that is occurring on land near two tributaries of the Athabasca River, she said. p>

“Officers will remain on site to monitor the cleanup and gather more information to see if the Fisheries Act has been violated.

—Nicole Allen, Spokesperson for Environment Canada

Seepage from the Kearl site, about 70 kilometers from Fort McMurray, was first noticed in May 2022, but neither Imperial nor Alberta's energy regulator has reported. kept local First Nations or provincial and federal environmental officials informed.

News of the leak was officially released on February 7, 2023 in an environmental protection order from the regulator, after another release of 5.3 million liters of tailings from a catchment area at the site. . Federal officials said Alberta was required to notify it of such leaks within 24 hours.

The fact that nine months had elapsed between the discovery of the first leak and the public announcement sparked anger among First Nations harvesting land near the site.

Arthur Noskey, Grand Chief of the Treaty 8 First Nations, spoke on the issue at the end of last week. Identify the causes of the Imperial tailings breakage and find a solution immediately, he wrote. Imperial and governments must contain toxic oil sands leaks.

The Government of the Northwest Territories was also outraged that it was not informed, given a bilateral agreement it entered into with Alberta over shared watershed.

With information from The Canadian Press

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