Monday, September 20, 2010

Deformed Fish on Athabasca River (Canada)

From the

Given the regularity with which fisherman now catch deformed fish, Schindler suggested that a federally funded fish health study on the Athabasca River "should be a much higher priority [for Ottawa] than funding hockey rinks and new fighter jets." Aboriginal communities and leaders downstream of the oil sands have been calling for such studies for nearly a decade.

Of 27 whitefish, burbot and northern pike recently collected by Robert Grandjambe, a resident of Fort Chip, seven had deformities, lesions, curved spines and bulging eyes. No reliable data exists on the actual percentage of deformed fish being caught downstream from the oil sands. But it may range from two to 20 per cent, says Schindler....

Ladouceur, who has been fishing commercially for 53 years on the lake and has lost eight family members to cancer, said, "I never saw deformed fish in my younger days. We've been trying to get some help to figure this out."

"We are human beings. Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach treats his dogs better. Sorry to say, but we need help."

Toxic brew identified by scientists

Many industrial sources now pollute the Athabasca River, including pulp mills, agricultural run-off, abandoned uranium mines and municipal waste. But two studies published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) have also shown that industrial air pollution and watershed destruction directly caused by the oil/tar sands has contaminated the river with heavy metals and petroleum compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

However, both Ottawa and the Alberta government, which are dependent on oil sand taxes and royalties, claim that all the pollution in the river is naturally occurring based on proprietary data collected by an industry-funded group.

Yet a 2009 study by David Schindler and Erin Kelly found that oil sands air pollution now blackens the snow with thousands of tonnes of bitumen particulates and PAHS during the winter within a 50 kilometre radius of the industry upgraders, resulting in an annual 5,000 barrel oil spill on the river during spring run-off.

Last month another study by Erin Kelly and David Schindler showed that air pollution and watershed destruction by the oil sands industry directly adds a rich brew of heavy metals including arsenic, thallium and mercury into the Athabasca river and at levels up to 30 times greater than permitted by pollution guidelines. Many heavy metals can increase the toxicity of PAHs.

Furthermore several studies have also found high levels of PAHs in six billion barrels of oil sands mining waste (enough to stretch to the moon and back 12 times) now stored in huge dams covering an area larger than the city of Vancouver...

Fish can absorb PAHS from water and sediment via their gills, skin and stomach. Different PAHs can cause totally different diseases and deformities in different fish species, including cataracts, tumors of the skin and liver, weakened immune systems, deformities, bile duct cancers and heart troubles.

PAHs can persist and behave in unexpected ways. A 2003 high profile study in the journal Science found that weathered oil from 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, including PAHs, continued to poison and affect the lifespan of fish and sea otters at sublethal levels more than a decade later. Long term PAH exposure not only stunted the growth of young pink salmon embryos, for example, but decreased their lifespan by 50 per cent.

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