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National Observer Opinion: Heads should roll over massive Alberta spill by Imperial Oil
March 11, 2023
Enough. It is time to do what Canada should have done decades ago and come down like a ton of bricks on oilsands companies that pollute our land and water.
Imperial Oil’s latest spill of toxic tailings water at the Kearl mine north of Fort McMurray is an outrageous breach of trust. The company’s failure to inform neighbouring First Nations about the spill speaks volumes about the disregard oilsands companies have shown Indigenous people living downstream. This has all the signs of a coverup, says Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. It’s hard not to think he’s right.
Twice, tailings water polluted with chemicals like naphthenic acids, arsenic and leftover bitumen — which, it goes without saying, should never reach human lips — spilled into the forest and wetland. The polluted mess pooled near the Muskeg and Firebag rivers, which in turn flow into the Athabasca River.
Did the company warn residents of Fort Chipewyan about the spill? No. Imperial has apologized but couldn’t come up with a compelling explanation for why the information was not shared with the people who could stand to be harmed by the chemicals. One could imagine any number of reasons Imperial would be happy to keep that information under the dome.
But harder to explain, and frankly more egregious, is why the Alberta Energy Regulator also failed to sound the alarm. The regulator is a government body that we would hope acts in the public interest. But in Alberta, the energy regulator has always been in thrall to industry.