Ottawa, ON – Today Environmental Defence welcomed Environment Canada’s release of new water monitoring design for tar sands and urged the government to turn talk into action and to start meeting its legal responsibilities to protect the environment and human health.
“We applaud the good work that leading scientists have put into designing a system to monitor water quality around the tar sands,” said Gillian McEachern of Environmental Defence. “The federal government now needs to move beyond words and actually move forwards on cleaning up the growing toxic mess in Northern Alberta.”
 
Former federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice struck an independent panel of scientists to review tar sands water monitoring and it found deficiencies in sampling design, lack of hypothesis driven sampling regimes, ill-defined or undefined baseline conditions and inadequate analytical capabilities. The Royal Society of Canada also published an expert panel report and the chair remarked that Ottawa has been “asleep at the wheel” and that “they have ample authority under existing legislation to be involved.”
 
Since the panel released its report on December 21, 2010, approximately 30 billion litres of tailings waste has been added to the vast toxic lakes by the tar sands industry, and an estimated one billion litres of toxic tailings have leaked into surrounding ground and surface water. The federal government has also failed to pursue documented instances of toxic tailings reaching surface waters that pre-dated that time.
 
“The federal government already has the tools and jurisdiction to not only collect the right information, but to create rules that put limits on the pollution coming from the tar sands and to prosecute offenders,” said McEachern. “It’s time to stop letting industry do government’s job – in a fox guarding the henhouse situation – and make something happen.”
 
About Environmental Defence (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.
 
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For more information, or to arrange an interview, contact:
 
Gillian McEachern, Environmental Defence, 613-292-4416 (cell)