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Preventing oilsands bird deaths not a ‘realistic goal,’ says U of A biologist

  • September 21, 2017

Cannons, radar scanners and scarecrows will never totally forestall bird deaths in Alberta’s oilsands region, says a charge consultant charged with safeguarding waterfowl from open-pit mines.

“As a amicable and domestic problem, we consider it’s flattering substantial,” pronounced Colleen Cassady St. Clair, a highbrow of biological sciences during a University of Alberta and lead researcher behind a Research on Avian Protection Project.

“This courtesy has presented itself, and been presented by a supervision and a citizens, as one that can forestall this problem,” St. Clair pronounced in an talk Thursday with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.

“This problem can't be prevented with a stream proceed to it. And maybe that’s not even a picturesque goal.”

The Alberta Energy Regulator is questioning after 123 birds were found passed during a tailings pool on a Suncor Fort Hills cave north of Fort McMurray.

The few horned larks found alive in a group had to be euthanized on Sunday.

The oilsands hulk pronounced it was confounded by a find of passed and unwell birds during a scarcely finished mine, that has nonetheless to furnish a initial central tub of oil.

Fort Hills is jointly owned by Suncor, Total EP Canada and Teck Resources. Suncor has launched an review to figure out because a birds were in a area, notwithstanding a participation of operative halt systems, including cannons, radar and scarecrows.

Cassady St. Clair said she suspects a birds, tired by an imminent storm, were captivated to lights in a area and overwhelmed down on a tailings pond, meditative it was plain ground.

Syncrude's Mildred Lake plant

The genocide of 30 blue herons during a Syncrude Canada Mildred Lake oilsands cave site north of Fort McMurray resulted in charges. (Canadian Press/The Interior/Wiki Creative Commons)

 The occurrence recalls prior bird deaths during oilsands tailings ponds.

Syncrude Canada was fined $3 million after some-more than 1,600 ducks were killed in a pool in 2008. No charges were laid in 2010, when 550 birds had to be damaged due to an early winter charge that forced them to land on ponds during Syncrude and Suncor facilities.

In August, Syncrude Canada was charged with unwell to scrupulously store a dangerous piece in tie with a 2015 deaths of 31 good blue herons during a oilsands mine, an occurrence not associated to a tailings ponds.

‘A little bit over-reactionary’

Cassady St. Clair pronounced there will always be bird deaths connected to a oil industry.

The incidents are embarrassment for a companies, though when it comes to charge a oilsands is not a biggest villain, she said.

“If we were to usually review all a things that humans to do birds, a oilsands don’t rate in a tip causes of bird deaths in a country, not even a tip 20, ” she said.

“I consider we are being a small bit over-reactionary to a deaths of birds in instances like this one.”

The series of birds killed in tailings ponds any year is “ecologically insignificant” compared to a other factors that endanger populations, she said.

After cats, both domestic and feral, a biggest bird killers are collisions with high structures and highway deaths. Those 3 causes total are obliged for 95 per cent of bird deaths, according to a investigate by Environment Canada.

‘Out-of-sight, out-of-mind’

Tens of thousands of birds land on poisonous tailings ponds each year. Of those, an normal of 200 are reported dead, she said.

The emanate deserves open attention, and some-more research, she said, though efforts to diminish a waste should be formed on facts, not outrage.

“We know that adult to a integrate of hundred birds die after alighting in a tailings ponds each year, though it usually creates a news when a garland of birds do it during once,” Cassady St. Clair said. “It’s a small bit of naive, out-of-sight-out-of-mind thinking.”

Current sovereign environmental regulations systematise any bird alighting on a tailings pool as illegal, given all tailings are personal as toxic. But a sweeping proceed to enforcement is not working, pronounced Cassady St. Clair.

If a laws were softened, it would concede operators to concentration on problem areas and boost deterrents when bad continue increases a risk of masse bird landings, she said.

“The law is being damaged each time a bird lands, so clearly one of those dual things has to give,” she said.

“Either we need improved halt systems that can indeed forestall that, and we don’t consider that’s probable on this scale, underneath a vital roving corridor. Or we need to change a interpretation of these laws, and that competence indeed concede operators to boost halt efficiency for times like this one.”

Listen to Edmonton AM with host Mark Connolly, weekday mornings during CBC Radio One, 93.9 FM in Edmonton. Follow a morning organisation on Twitter @EdmAMCBC

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