Mercury Tar Sands: Huge Ring of Mercury Found Around Alberta Tar Sands


A 7,300 mile ring of mercury was found around tar sands in northeast Alberta, Canada.

Environment Canada found that the mercury traces were up to 16 times higher than “background” levels for the region.

While the levels are still low compared to contamination in other parts of Canada such as southern Ontario and Quebec, federal scientists are saying that mercury is “the number one concern” when it comes to metal toxins generated by notoriously dirty oilsands operations, reported the Vancouver Sun.

Scientists with Environment Canada are testing a range of materials around the site, including snow and bird eggs.

Jane Kirk, one of the scientists, presented preliminary findings at an international toxicology conference in Nashville recently, and is publishing a study in 2014.

The levels of mercury decrease the further away from the main area of the operations.

It’s a gradual thing like a bulls’-eye,” said co-investigator Derek Muir. The bulls’-eye is described as a 7,300 mile ring.

The mercury toxin build-up is believed to be impacting some of the wildlife in the area. Mercury levels have been increasing in bird eggs, for instance.

Mercury can cause brain damage through chronic exposure, through accumulating in wildlife. Attempts to combat mercury toxins include Canadian Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq signing an international treaty in October, pledging to reduce mercury releases in processes such as tar sand operations.

Category: World Canada


  • takawalk

    Well we have real concerns about the Mercury levels in the larger fish we catch in the Gulf. It is my understanding that once consumed it stays with a long time. Anybody have a good understanding of this or should I ask my friend Google?

    • OnyxE

      Once consumed it stays and doesn’t go anywhere, that’s why it becomes very concentrated in the small bodies of animals such as these birds. If it’s in their eggs it’s obviously in the birds.

      • takawalk

        That is my understanding of it. Thanks for the confirmation.

    • Classical_Gas

      Check the link I left upthread…it’s sobering.

  • rg9rts

    And here I was worried about fracking! Silly me!

  • Canukistani

    Whenever this topic comes up the Conservatives start beating the drum about jobs and money and the economy. One day the jobs and money will be gone. But this toxic mess will remain.

    I think there’d be a lot less enthusiasm for this in Ottawa if Harper and company had to live next door to where this is happening.

    As for the Environment Canada study, since Harper has already officially muzzled the scientists, it will say whatever he wants it to say or, one way or another, heads will roll.

  • OnyxE

    Disgusting and environment canada ‘scientists’ are likely only looking at this years after David Schindler was raising the alarm. No doubt it will be downplayed as much as possible.

  • Classical_Gas

    I hope the PTB realize what they are doing. This is not the first – does anyone else remember what happened in Minamata, Japan? I remember seeing first-release photos from there in the late 50′s. I was absolutely horrified. And yet we continue down this path.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minamata_disease

    • takawalk

      Very sobering, I have seen things on this topic from both sides that were ridiculously over stated, well a better way to say what I truly mean, is that are many factual ways to discuss the negatives and positives this technology brings without making stuff up. In the process maybe we can learn to get some of the positive without creating waste lands. It is a topic I have little real information on, but have often seen politicized.

      • Classical_Gas

        Yes, we need to tackle problems like this without using them to bash the other side. The inexcusable random dumping of toxic wastes has to stop, it continues because it’s cheaper than dealing with it.

        It’s always the money. We need to find ways to turn that around, if any progress is to be made.

        What are your thoughts on accelerating the development of more green energy? I’m not thinking bio-fuels – solar, wind, geo-thermal, and tidal are things I’ve been reading about.

        • takawalk

          Well it is too late to do what I wish had been done. The stimulus should have been focused to address R&D on this topic. A major effort like the moon shot. Much of what we take for granted now was technological off shoots from that program. That is not meant to be political and I have taken grief from cons for saying it in the past.
          As to what we can do now. I think a combination of things that match different Geo. locations would be a good start. I am not too bright on the topic, that is why I am wanting to see what those that have given it more thought and research think. Tidal energy seems to be a underdeveloped perpetual source of energy, but as with wind or anything else often being discussed, there will be ecological damage to be considered with this also. I think the real answer will involve something not yet in the mainstream of discussion. Technology will resolve the energy issue in the end. What thoughts have you had? I too see many problems with bio fuels being any help in the large picture. But that opinion might be based on misinformation or a lack of it. Sorry if I rambled, just thinking out loud.

          • Classical_Gas

            That would have made a lot of sense. I think we need a major push like that to get it rolling. Damage is probably unavoidable, it’s a trade-off, I suppose.

            Interesting that you say that – something not in the mainstream of discussion,,,I found this a little while ago: http://veteransforcommonsense.org/2012/02/25/military-rolls-out-fleet-of-hydrogen-fuel-cell-vehicles-in-hawaii/
            Since the military usually gets what it wants, this could spur development. Kind of exciting, I think.

            I found a lot of news from Europe – they’re all over green energy, from what I saw: http://cleantechnica.com/2013/10/16/renewable-energy-powered-austrian-town-gussing/

            Ramble away, tossing all kinds of ideas out there is a good thing. I’m intrigued by all of the different approaches in use.

          • takawalk

            I will take a look at those links, after I catch up a bit.

          • Classical_Gas

            Another day. Happy New Year to you, Tak!

          • takawalk

            Same to you Class, not sure sometimes if I should call you Class, or Gas :) But hope I will be able to call you friend. I will probably wind up calling you both, depending on what you are saying at the time. You can call me “ass” from time to time.

          • Classical_Gas

            :D CG would be fine, Tak. Indeed, I hope to call you friend, too. I look forward to good conversations, and you may let fly as you see fit.

  • apogee2perogee

    “Pollution was so heavy at the mouth of the wastewater canal that a figure of 2 kg of mercury per ton of sediment was measured: a level that would be economically viable to mine. Indeed, Chisso did later set up a subsidiary to reclaim and sell the mercury recovered from the sludge.” Also, “Hair samples were taken from the victims of the disease and also from the Minamata population in general. In patients the maximum mercury level recorded was 705 ppm (parts per million), indicating very heavy exposure and in non-symptomatic Minamata residents the level was 191 ppm. This compared to an average level of 4 ppm for people living outside the Minamata area.”

    This is from the Wiki regarding Minamata disease. A truly stunning level of pollution.

  • OrigamiB

    From the article : “It’s a gradual thing like a bulls’-eye,” said co-investigator Derek Muir. The bulls’-eye is described as a 7,300 mile ring.

    Egads. that’s a BIG ring.

    • Classical_Gas

      Yeah, it is.


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