Wednesday, November 2, 2011

He blinded me with science...

Speaking to a packed house at U of T's University College yesterday, David Schindler presented scientific data to back up claims of the devastation wreaked by oil sands development.

A noted limnologist and environmental activist, Dr. Schindler's presentation, entitled The Oil Sands: Economic Saviour or Environmental Disaster, was filled with results of experiments and slides of PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). As someone with limited knowledge of chemistry and biology, I couldn't keep up with the details so I will give you what I took away as the big picture conclusions. Dr. Schindler kindly offered to send the presentation deck out to those who were interested, so you can contact him for a copy.

  • oil sands development has been too rapid for monitoring or regulation to keep up. Cumulative Effects Assessments need to be done in a more thorough manner to document what is really happening.
  • Cancer incidence is higher in Fort Chipewyan. Check out the related article in This magazine .
  • an experiment he conducted melting snow from the frozen Athabasca River and analyzing it showed that contaminants were usually much higher in sites impacted by industry.
  • tributaries in watersheds that were more disturbed had higher element concentrations than tributaries in less disturbed watersheds.
  • it is possible that land around the oil sands can never be properly reclaimed, oil company claims notwithstanding. This one really got to me and I will try to follow up. Dr. Schindler believes that the type of planting being done, wooded fens, will not be sustainable over the long term due to the salinity of the soil and water.
  • He suggested some logical next steps. First, a detailed study of fish health and effects of contaminants on reproduction and survival. Second, a detailed health study of people living in the area. And finally, better monitoring, to be done by Environment Canada, the only agency with the capacity to do an effective job.

    Dr. Schindler stated there is very little possibility that nothing (meaning no contaminants) is flowing into the Athabasca, and ended with the question, 'Why do we have to proceed with development much faster than we know what we are doing?'

    1 comment:

    1. thanks for this! looking forward to contacting Dr. Schindler for a copy