Aboriginals near Fort McKay say they no longer hunt in part of their traditional hunting grounds because animals living there can access an oilsands tailings pond.
"It's no good to hunt around here," said Shawn Powder. "We try to get farther into the bush. Try to go get something way out in the bush because we can't trust — do much around here."
The pond, located in a remote area about 70 kilometres northwest of Fort McMurray, contains toxic waste from the Horizon oilsands project operated by Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL). It has been in operation for about a year.
The tailings pond is contained by dikes on just three sides. The west side is open relying on the rising elevation of the land to contain the toxic sludge.
There are no physical barriers to keep animals off the site.
Hunters from Fort McKay First Nation worry wildlife they hunt and trap is drinking water from the pond which could lead to toxins getting into their food supply.
CNRL uses noise cannons and sirens and clears away trees and muskeg to keep wildlife away, but admits animals can wander into the tailings.
Both Environment Canada and Alberta Environment toured the CNRL site recently and found the pond was operating within regulations..
Companies have to do what's reasonable to keep animals from tailings ponds, said Alberta Environment spokesman Chris Bourdeau.
"To think that we can 100 per cent stop animals from entering a tailings pond, that's unreasonable."