The federal government is working on laws that will allow tar sands companies in northern Alberta to release treated wastewater directly into the ecosystem, which has been banned for decades.
Presently, any water used to drill for oil during the mining process must be stored since it is hazardous. Tailings ponds are large above-ground lakes that are detrimental to animals and have resulted in the death of birds who land on the water in several instances.
Local Native communities have been raising worries about the industrial impact and how tailings ponds could further damage their freshwater area for years.
However, technology firms and some scientists now believe that the water can be sufficiently treated to allow it to be safely disposed of, reducing the environmental danger of keeping an ever-increasing quantity of waste.
Oilsands businesses utilise freshwater to help separate the oil from the sand and other elements present in mines for decades. Over time, the industry has developed procedures to recycle a more significant percentage of the water it utilises. To create one barrel of bitumen, mines still need three to four barrels of freshwater.
The water is held in tailings ponds after use because the material contains numerous pollutants, oil residue, and elevated amounts of salt.
Tailings ponds at tar sands mines in northern Alberta hold about 1.4 trillion gallons of polluted water. That’s the capacity of some more than 560,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, which, if laid end-to-end, would reach from Edmonton to Melbourne, Australia, and back.
“The biggest challenge is that we have a vast amount of water that needs to be treated,” University of Alberta professor Mohamed Gamal El-Din remarked.
Source: CBC News