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TitleAcid deposition in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region: A policy perspective
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsWhitfield, C. J., & Watmough S. A.
Secondary TitleEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Date Published12/2015
Publication Languageeng
ISSN Number1573-2959
Keywordsacid, atmospheric deposition, base, cations, critical loads, dynamic modelling, policy, soils

Industrial emissions of sulphur (S) and nitrogen (N) to the atmosphere associated with the oil sands industry in north-eastern Alberta are of interest as they represent the largest localized source in Canada (with potential for future growth) and the region features acid-sensitive upland terrain. Existing emission management policy for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, where the industry is located, is based on a time-to-effect approach that relies on dynamic model simulations of temporal changes in chemistry and features highly protective chemical criteria. In practice, the policy is difficult to implement and it is unlikely that a scientifically defensible estimate of acidification risk can be put forward due to the limitations primarily associated with issues of scale, chemical endpoint designation (selection of chemical limit for ecosystem protection from acidification) and data availability. A more implementable approach would use a steady-state critical load (CL) assessment approach to identify at-risk areas. The CL assessment would consider areas of elevated acid deposition associated with oil sands emissions rather than targeted political jurisdictions. Dynamic models should only be (strategically) used where acidification risk is identified via CL analysis, in order to characterize the potential for acidification-induced changes that can be detrimental to sensitive biota within the lifespan of the industry.

Locational Keywords

Athabasca River, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

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Short TitleEnviron Monit Assess
Citation Key54614

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