Not any more

Alberta premier calls for investigation into river toxins

In Canada on September 1, 2010 at 21:45

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach called Wednesday for a meeting of scientists to figure out why a University of Alberta study found high levels of toxins in water near oilsands sites — while an industry-led monitoring program did not.

"We’ll have the scientists sit down and compare the data. Some of the measurements, I couldn’t explain to you, but let it be discussed scientist to scientist," Stelmach said. "If there’s an improvement to be made, it will be made."

The premier said he has "great respect" for David Schindler, the ecologist who helped write the paper.

The paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that oilsands operations boost the concentration of dangerous metals in the Athabasca watershed.

The conclusions clashes with government claims that there has been no increase in contaminants in the oilsands.

Stelmach said he has faith in the integrity of the data collected by the regional aquatics monitoring program, an industry-led body that has studied water quality in the Athabasca for roughly 13 years.

Schindler has called for the program to be scrapped and has questioned the quality of its data.

On Tuesday, Environment Minister Rob Renner said he believes the increases in contaminants are naturally occurring in the river.

Stelmach couldn’t say with certainty where the truth lies, but he wants to find out.

"I’m confident in the data, but we have another report that’s contesting that data. So I’m saying don’t discount the data from a respected water scientist, let’s come together and share the information."

Stelmach said he wants the proposed meetings to take place within weeks, so he can take the most credible information to stakeholders in his upcoming trips across Canada and the world.

amclean@thejournal.canwest.com

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

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