Study: Oilsands Acid Emissions Could Damage Area the Size of Half of Alberta

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Study: Oilsands Acid Emissions Could Damage Area the Size of Half of Alberta

Acid emissions from oilsands could potentially damage an area the size of Germany.

That’s according to Paul Makar, Senior Research Scientist with Environment Canada, who says aquatic and forest ecosystems could be heavily impacted if levels continue from 2013.

Makar, along with representatives from Trent University and the Alberta and Saskatchewan provincial governments, studied over 90,000 lakes and the air pollution to estimate the damage already done and on the way by acid deposits.

Makar says in 2013 emissions impacted around 330,000 square kilometres.

“Alberta is about 660,000 square kilometres and that mean’s there’s an area that’s in exceedance for aquatic ecosystems that’s about half the size of Alberta.”

If levels continue then we could see tree growth and root development halted as well as damage to aquatic ecosystems.

“The aquatic ecosystems are kind of the canary in the coal mines,” he said. “It affects things like the fish reproductive cycle.”

Right now, only a couple of lakes are showing signs of minor damage from acid emissions. Bodies of water as far as Manitoba could potentially be impacted.

Makar notes this is simply a warning.

“If [oilsands] continue the emissions of the 2013 levels, eventually you will have this problem over a very large area, it doesn’t mean that it’s already happened.”

He adds they don’t know when extensive damage could happen just the rate it would be at.
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