Government study proves oil sands contamination of local lakes

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Government study proves oil sands contamination of local lakes

The oil sands industry is contaminating the Wood Buffalo region's lakes with cancer causing contaminants.

That conclusion from a peer-review study published by some of the country's leading scientists.

"If an exposure or a dose of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, there is the potential for carcinogenic response. There are a toxic substance of concern" says Professor of Paleoecological Environment Assessment and Research Laboratory and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change, Joshua Kurek. "Even at relatively small levels of the environment they are a concern. It's a substance that ranks in the top 10 hazardous substances on the U.S agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry." 

The government-funded research finds that toxic hydrocarbons in six local lakes are between 2 1/2 and 23 times higher than what they were before mines were operational. 

"The amount of PAH's increases in the 1960's and continues to increase more or so lockstep with the petroleum industry and also environment Canada can sort of fingerprint different types of pollutants." says Professor of Biology at Queen's University  and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change, John Smol. "Some are more likely coming from the oil sands operations, some of these are natural as well. They can actually pin point this and actually show that in fact the ones that are related to the oil sands industry are actually the ones that are increasing. So I think we kind of have the smoke in gun."

Some lakes are already approaching warning toxic levels.

"To like a warning sign. It is worrisome, the data. These are just PAH's so far. There is a lot of other things like mercury, metal and other things. These are some nasty things and you start putting them in combination." explains Smol. "We really don't have a good feel for when things happen together they tend to be more negative. I think we are entering new ecological states and nature is very slow to forgive."

Researchers are concerned about the effect of other substances,  such as mercury which were not included in their analysis. 
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