Edmonton

Regulator probing reports of waterfowl landing on tailings ponds

The Alberta Energy Regulator is investigating several reports that waterfowl have landed on tailings ponds in the Athabasca oilsands region near Fort McMurray.

The Alberta Energy Regulator is investigating several reports that waterfowl have landed on tailings ponds in the Athabasca oilsands region near Fort McMurray.

The first report came in about noon, and by evening the AER had investigation teams on the scene, said spokesman Ryan Bartlett.

“We’ve had several reports from a few different companies in the area,” Bartlett said.

He did have not have details about which companies or how many waterfowl were involved.

The AER teams were sent to the oilsands facilities to ensure that “companies in the area are taking all steps to respond appropriately,” the AER said in a news release.

The issue of waterfowl and tailings ponds has been political dynamite in Alberta for years.

In April 2008, about 1,600 of migrating birds died after landing on a tailings pond in northern Alberta owned by Syncrude Canada.

The story made headlines around the world and focused international attention on an industry that is the economic lifeblood of Alberta.

Syncrude was later charged with one count under Section 155 of the Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act for failing to provide appropriate waterfowl deterrents at the pond. The company was charged with one count under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act.

During a lengthy and well-publicized trial in 2010, dramatic pictures and video of ducks struggling in a toxic waste pond were entered as evidence.

Syncrude was found guilty on both charges and ordered to pay a $3-million penalty.

now