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Study Confirms Tar Sands Contamination First Nations Warned of for Years

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A new study puts the spotlight on tar sands' threat to one of the planet's precious and increasingly scarce resources-water.

The study by Environment Canada shows that tailings ponds, open 'lakes' that hold toxic bi-products from tar sands mining, are leaching into groundwater and contaminating Alberta's Athabasa River.

The federal research was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

The researchers used new technology to differentiate chemicals from naturally occurring bitumen deposits in soil around the developments from those released by the tar sands industry.

"It looks like what they've seen is that in fact the tailings ponds are leaking," CBC Newsquotes Bill Donahue, an environmental scientist with the governmental tar sands advisory committee, as saying.

"They found also not only are those tailings ponds leaking, but it looks like it is flowing pretty much from those tailings ponds, through the ground and into the Athabasca River," Donahue continued. "So, there goes   that message we've been hearing about. 'These tailings ponds are safe, they don't leak' and so on."

"While the study confirms what we already know to a certain extent," Andrea Harden-Donahue, Energy and Climate Justice Campaigner with the Ottawa-based organization Council of Canadians, told Common Dreams, "it's sad to see the federal government so far behind."   


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