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A fisheries and water quality survey of ten lakes in the Richardson Tower area northeastern Alberta. Volume I: Methodology summary and discussion


Author(s): Ash, G. R., & Noton L. R.

Year: 1980

Abstract:
A fisheries and water quality survey was conducted in September 1979 on 10 small lakes (67.4 to 338.9 ha) in the vicinity of Richardson Tower, approximately 140 km north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. The major objectives were: (1) to determine morphometric and water quality characteristics in relation to habitat requirements for indigenous and possible introduced species of fish; (2) to assess potential fish yield; and (3) to determine the susceptibility of the lakes to acidification. Maximum lake depth ranged from 6 to 16 m; mean depth varied from 1.9 to 8.0 m. Morphoedaphic indices varied from 16.7 to 54.3. Water quality was fairly uniform with moderate concentrations of dissolved sol ids total filterable residue slightly above 100 mg/L), calcium and bicarbonate at the major ions, and low phosphorus levels. Waters were clear, largely unstained, and generally well oxygenated. Water quality in most lakes was highly suitable for fish production. Ten species of fish were recorded. All lakes supported northern pike while only five contained walleye. Lake whitefish was present in all but one lake. Yellow perch, although recorded in seven of the lakes, were slow growing and small in size. Estimates of potential fish yield varied from 4.8 to 6.5 kg/ha/yr to 8.2 to 10.9 kg/ha/yr. Mean total alkalinity of the study lakes was 77 mg/L (1.53 meq/L). Although terrestrial buffering responses were uncertain, it appeared that lakes are not highly susceptible to acidification (i.e., at precipitation acidities foreseeable for the study area).

A review of the baseline data relevant to the documentation and evaluation of the impacts of oil sands developments on black bear in the AOSERP study area


Year: 1978

Abstract:
Three of the tenets upon which the Canada-Alberta agreement for the Alberta Oil Sands Environmental Research Program (AOSERP) is founded are: 1. Canada and Alberta recognize the necessity of improving the scientific understanding of the effects of the oil sands development on the human and natural environment of the Athabasca Oil Sands area. 2. The results of an intensive study of the area will be useful in predicting the effects of any proposed development as a basis for considering future proposals. 3. The results of the study program will be utilized by Alberta in the approval process for future developments and in the environmental design of any project which might be implemented. It is clear, therefore, that AOSERP was established with at least two major goals in mind: 1. To conduct research which will be useful in predicting the environmental effects of oil sands development, and 2. To conduct research which will provide an understanding of the environmental effects of development such that this knowledge may be used in the environmental design of future developments. Development of the Athabasca Oil Sands will affect the black bear population to varying degrees through alteration of habitat, disturbance factors, and increased exploitation. Black bear research in the AOSERP. study area (Figure 1) has not been extensive. One field study doOll1lented radio locations of four cubless females in the Fort Hills area (Fuller ru1d Keith in prep.). Young (1978) categorized habitat in all townships within the AOSERP study area from forest cover series maps (1:126,720 scale) and calculated black bear densities. This was a comparative study based on known densities in similar habitats near Cold Lake, Alberta. In addition, black bear research near Cold Lake (approximately 144 km south of the AOSERP study area) was initiated by Alberta Recreation, Parks and wildlife in 1968 and continued by the University of Wisconsin with financial support from AOSERP. Kemp (1972, 1976) and Ruff (1973) produced reports based on this work; however, a good deal of information is, as yet, unavailable. The general objective of this study is to complete an analysis of the applied research necessary to evaluate the responses of black bears to oil sands development. The objective of this report is to provide a review of the available baseline data which are relevant to the documentation and evaluation of the impacts on black bear which would result from oil sands development in the Athabasca Oil Sands area. This review forms the basis of evaluation of the state of baseline knowledge of black bears in the AOSERP study area and a statement of the research which should be completed in order to provide the data; this analysis has been submitted as a separate volume.

Athabasca: A river changes; Fort Chipewyan's elders recall when water was pure


Author(s): Brooymans, H.

Year: 2010

Abstract:
[...] it affected flows in the Peace River. ***** The Journal's Hanneke Brooymans and Ryan Jackson went to Fort Chipewyan to learn more about water concerns in the shadow of industrial development. A 2009 Alberta Cancer Board report showed there are 30 per cent more cancers than expected in the community, but said the small population cast doubt on the statistical significance of the numbers.

Bison and the oil sands industry


Author(s): Pauls, R. W.

Year: 1999

Abstract:
Many tens of thousands of hectares of forested land will be disturbed and reclaimed in the surface mineable Athabasca oil sands area during the next few decades. The surface area disturbed by Syncrude's Mildred Lake development alone exceeds 10 000 ha to date. It is not clear that reforestation of disturbed areas will best accommodate the aspirations of all stake-holders, particularly traditional users of the land. A five-year research program by Syncrude Canada limited and the Fort McKay First Nations has examined the feasibility of raising bison on land reclaimed after disturbance by oil sands development. Forage productivity and carrying capacity for bison was comparable to that of grasslands elsewhere in Alberta. Concerns regarding compaction of newly rebuilt soil by bison traffic proved unfounded. Bison demonstrated weight gains typical for ranched bison and calving rates averaged 90%, a value typical for ranched bison. The animal husbandry problems encountered were typical of those occurring on bison ranches elsewhere in Alberta. An economic analysis indicates that a 1000 ha bison ranch on reclaimed land has a net present value that compares very favourably with a similar area supporting commercial forest. Subject to approval by Alberta Environmental Protection, the current research project will be expanded as a pilot commercial ranching venture in order to explore its commercial viability as a business venture by the Fort McKay First Nations. At the same time, measures will be implemented to resolve various regulatory issues associated with commercial bison production in the oil sands area.

Characterization of trace gases measured over Alberta oil sands mining operations: 76 speciated C2-C10 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) CO2 CH4 CO NO NO2 NOy O3 and SO2


Year: 2010

Abstract:
Oil sands comprise 30% of the world’s oil reserves and the crude oil reserves in Canada’s oil sands deposits are second only to Saudi Arabia. The extraction and processing of oil sands is much more challenging than for light sweet crude oils because of the high viscosity of the bitumen con- tained within the oil sands and because the bitumen is mixed with sand and contains chemical impurities such as sulphur. Despite these challenges, the importance of oil sands is in- creasing in the energy market. To our best knowledge this is the first peer-reviewed study to characterize volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from Alberta’s oil sands mining sites. We present high-precision gas chromatography mea- surements of 76 speciated C2–C10 VOCs (alkanes, alkenes, alkynes, cycloalkanes, aromatics, monoterpenes, oxygenated hydrocarbons, halocarbons and sulphur compounds) in 17 boundary layer air samples collected over surface mining operations in northeast Alberta on 10 July 2008, using the NASA DC-8 airborne laboratory as a research platform. In addition to the VOCs, we present simultaneous measure- ments of CO2, CH4, CO, NO, NO2, NOy, O3 and SO2, which were measured in situ aboard the DC-8. Carbon dioxide, CH4 , CO, NO, NO2 , NOy , SO2 and 53 VOCs (e.g., non-methane hydrocarbons, halocarbons, sul- phur species) showed clear statistical enhancements (1.1– 397×) over the oil sands compared to local background val- Correspondence to: I. J. Simpson (isimpson@uci.edu) ues and, with the exception of CO, were greater over the oil sands than at any other time during the flight. Twenty halo- carbons (e.g., CFCs, HFCs, halons, brominated species) ei- ther were not enhanced or were minimally enhanced (<10%) over the oil sands. Ozone levels remained low because of titration by NO, and three VOCs (propyne, furan, MTBE) remained below their 3 pptv detection limit throughout the flight. Based on their correlations with one another, the com- pounds emitted by the oil sands industry fell into two groups: (1) evaporative emissions from the oil sands and its prod- ucts and/or from the diluent used to lower the viscosity of the extracted bitumen (i.e., C4 –C9 alkanes, C5 –C6 cycloalka- nes, C6–C8 aromatics), together with CO; and (2) emissions associated with the mining effort, such as upgraders (i.e., CO2, CO, CH4, NO, NO2, NOy, SO2, C2–C4 alkanes, C2– C4 alkenes, C9 aromatics, short-lived solvents such as C2Cl4 and C2 HCl3 , and longer-lived species such as HCFC-22 and HCFC-142b). Prominent in the second group, SO2 and NO were remarkably enhanced over the oil sands, with maxi- mum mixing ratios of 38.7 ppbv and 5.0 ppbv, or 383× and 319× the local background, respectively. These SO2 lev- els are comparable to maximum values measured in heavily polluted megacities such as Mexico City and are attributed to coke combustion. By contrast, relatively poor correla- tions between CH4, ethane and propane suggest low levels of natural gas leakage despite its heavy use at the surface mining sites. Instead the elevated CH4 levels are attributed to methanogenic tailings pond emissions.

Ecophysiological adaptations of black spruce (Picea mariana) and tamarack (Larix laricina) seedlings to flooding and nutrition stress


Author(s): Islam, M. A.

Year: 2004

Abstract:
Black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill) B. S. P.), an evergreen conifer and tamarack (Larix laricina (Du Roi) K. Koch), a deciduous conifer, are the predominant tree species of boreal peatlands of northern Alberta, Canada. The harsh boreal environment is characterized by low nutrient availability, low soil temperature and high water tables. The rise of the water table creates anaerobic conditions in the root zone where the ammonium form of nitrogen becomes more available while the availability of nitrate decreases. Microsite variation within and between years also results in variable nutrient availability to plants. In order to understand the mechanisms of flooding tolerance, nutrient uptake pattern, and growth responses, seedlings of both species were subjected to flooding and different forms and levels of nitrogen fertilizers in a series of growth chamber experiments. Results of this project suggest that tamarack is more flood tolerant than black spruce since it maintained a higher gas exchange rate and root hydraulic conductance apparently because of its higher root respiration and greater allocation of carbohydrates to the root. Gas exchange of tamarack was also unaffected by the application of exogenous ethylene though root hydraulic conductivity increased. Additionally, tamarack was able to acclimate morphologically to flooding by producing stem hypertrophy and adventitious roots while black spruce lacked such adaptations. While nitrate and ammonium uptake was inhibited in flooded seedlings of both species, non-flooded black spruce showed a clear preferential ammonium uptake and tamarack exhibited an equal uptake of both forms of nitrogen. Low supply of nitrogen affected gas exchange of black spruce more negatively than tamarack. On the other hand, higher nutrient availability for two consecutive seasons did not have a significant positive effect on growth in black spruce while it increased gas exchange rate and biomass production in tamarack dramatically. Maintenance of higher root respiration, root hydraulic conductance, and equal carbon allocation to roots allowed tamarack to withstand flooding while equal uptake of ammonium and nitrate, and higher growth rate in conditions of variable nutrient availability would confer a competitive advantage to tamarack to succeed in the boreal peatland environment.

Geochemical and isotopic investigations of lake sediments from the Athabasca oil sands region


Author(s): Stanners, F. M.

Year: 2014

Abstract:
The Athabasca oil sands region (AOSR) is one of the largest unconventional oil reserves globally, and is projected to become increasingly important as conventional oil resources are depleted. This has lead to increasing concerns about the impact of industrial emissions on surrounding ecosystems. Four sediment cores from three lakes in northeastern Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan were analyzed to assess the type and quantity of organic matter (OM) in sediments, and whether there had been any impact from industrial emissions originating in the AOSR on lake sediment geochemistry. Analyses showed that sediments in all three lakes are organic-rich, and the OM is dominantly derived from authochthonous primary production of phytoplankton and bacteria. Stable N and S isotope analyses of sediments, deposited between 1850 and 2010 showed no clear impact from industrial emissions in the AOSR.

Hydraulic modelling of Peace-Athabasca Delta under modified and natural flow conditions


Author(s): Aitken, B., & Sapach R.

Year: 1994

Abstract:
Construction of the Bennett Dam in British Columbia altered natural fluctuations of downstream flows in the Peace River in Alberta, with major implications for the ecosystem of the Peace-Athabasca Delta. In later years, downstream weirs were constructed to restore the water level regime in the Delta. This report presents the results of a modelling exercise undertaken in an attempt to assess the effect of the weirs and the dam on the Delta water levels during 1985-90, at which time Lake Athabasca water levels were low and it was not clear whether the weirs were functioning properly or if the low water levels were caused by low flows coming from the upper Peace and Athabasca river basins. The methodology uses a one-dimensional hydrodynamic model, suitably modified and calibrated. The appendices include numerous plots of water levels indicating the effects of the weirs and dam on natural conditions.

Rates of elemental sulphur oxidation and associated oxygen and sulphur isotope fractionation


Author(s): Smith, L. A.

Year: 2009

Abstract:
Elemental sulphur (S0) is removed from sour gas deposits (high H2S) during refinement. The resulting S0 is often stored onsite when the costs of shipping S0 to market exceeds the costs of storing it in large above ground blocks. With the aid of acidiphilic bacteria, atmospheric air and water oxidize S0 to sulphate (SO42-). Long term storage is under consideration; however, oxidation rates and the role of each oxygen source (O2(g) and H2O) is not clear. S0 oxidation experiments were conducted over a range of temperatures (6-32¡ãC) to investigate reaction rates and isotopic fractionation of O and S isotopes during oxidation. The experiments also investigated the effect of integrating S0 oxidizing microorganisms and available nutrients on both the reaction rates and isotope fractionation. Results indicated > 95% of total SO42- generated can be attributed to autotrophic microbial activity. Experiments conducted in a nutrient rich mineral solution showed rates increase with temperature from 0.16 (6¡ãC) to 0.98 (32¡ãC) ¦Ìg S0 cm-2 d-1 (Q10 ¡Ö 1.7 - 1.9). Experiments conducted in a nutrient poor solution (deionized water) showed oxidation rates did not increase with temperature (0.06 to 0.08 ¦Ìg S0 cm-2 d-1) between 12 and 32¡ãC. Oxygen isotope analysis of the generated SO42- indicated essentially all oxygen incorporated into the SO42- originated from H2O. In addition, effluent samples obtained from S0 block effluent at SCL indicated ¦Ä18O(SO4) generally reflected the ¦Ä18O(H2O) in the system at the time of oxidation. While covering the S0 blocks with an impermeable cover would undoubtedly minimize total SO42- accumulation in block effluent, the results of this study suggest ¦Ä18O(SO4) can also be used to track water movement through the block.

Risking rupture: Integral accidents and in/security in Canada's bitumen sands


Author(s): Greaves, W.

Year: 2013

Abstract:
The expansion of unconventional hydrocarbon development in Western Canada is one of the most contentious issues in contemporary Canadian politics. Although widely studied, little attention has been paid to the framing of Alberta's bitumen sands within distinct and incompatible discourses of energy and environmental security. This essay examines these discourses using the tools of securitization analysis, asking the basic questions of what each presents as needing to be secured, from what, and by what means. Presented with two sets of socially constructed in/ security claims related to the bitumen sands and proposed pipeline expansion, the author suggests the social theory of Paul Virilio provides a useful intervention into securitization analysis that allows the material implications of these discourses to be clarified and assessed. Drawing upon Virilio's critical account of technological progress and his theory of accidents, this essay proposes that conventional accounts of "energy security" in the bitumen sands cannot result in meaningful conditions of security because they remain premised upon continued and expanded hydrocarbon consumption in an era of anthropogenic climate change.

Sustainable mine reclamation and landscape engineering


Author(s): McKenna, G. T.

Year: 2002

Abstract:
Since its beginnings thirty years ago, mine reclamation practice continues to evolve. To determine the current state of practice for closure planing, landscape design, and to observe reclaimed landscape performance, 69 mines were visited. Reclamation, though generally well done, seldom satisfied stakeholders or regulators--few sites have received reclamation certification or been returned to the original owner. Until processes for setting realistic goals, multidisciplinary landscape design, and equitable transfer of residual liability are developed, mining companies will not achieve successful reclamation--mining will remain a terminal rather than temporary land use. While most reclaimed areas of most mines exhibit good landscape performance, several shortcomings in the state of practice are clear. The use and rigor of surface-water hydrology design is lacking. Performance of slopes with erodible substrates, the high costs of trafficking soft tailings areas, and errors in predicting end-pit lake filling are particularly troublesome. Designs and regulations that accommodate the dynamic nature of landscapes are uncommon. Poor landscape performance often relates to fluxes (of ions, water, sediment, nutrients, etc) that are unanticipated or outside expected ranges or more commonly, simply fail to achieve unrealistic objectives. Landscape engineering is introduced to help alleviate these shortcomings. It focuses on setting and achieving more realistic goals through inclusions of traditional engineering methods. Work is multidisciplinary and involve teams of specialists. To demonstrate the technical side of landscape engineering, two studies were performed. In the first, the effects of uncertainty in substrate hydraulic conductivity were demonstrated with a database of 800 hydraulic conductivity measurements of oil sand tailings sand. Simple geostatistical tools such as the coefficient of variation, upscaling, and quantifying spatial variability are demonstrated and several design scenarios described. The second study involves predicting erosion rates of fine-grained fills. Results from the laboratory, field, and the literature indicate erosion rate predictions, even under ideal conditions, are generally only accurate to within one order of magnitude. Both the studies highlight the need to estimate common landscape fluxes, their impact on performance, and the need to deliver robust designs and institutional mechanisms that allow for inherent limitations in predicting long term landscape performance for large or complex mining landforms and landscapes.

The resistance 2014, a watershed year


Author(s): Anonymous

Year: 2015

Abstract:
The article discusses several movements against tar sands project in Canada during 2014-2015. In January 2015, Canadian singers Neil Young and Diana Krall held a tour across Canada to draw attention towards the social and environmental impact of tar sands development, and to raise money for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation's legal defence fund. In April 2014, residents of the town of Kitimat, British Columbia, voted against energy company Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.

Citation:

Very high resolution meteorological satellite study of oil sands weather "A feasibility study"


Year: 1977

Abstract:
Imagery from both meteorological and environmental satellite sensor systems was analyzed to determine its applicability in monitoring weather conditions at the Alberta oil sands. Two sensor systems were the objects of investigation, the multispectral scanner (MSS) aboard the environmental LANDSAT satellites and the Very High Resolution Radiometer (VHRR) aboard the NOAA meteorological satellites. Weather conditions such as clear and cold, convective cloudiness, and widespread precipitation were studied with the available satellite imagery. The images and known weather conditions were then compared to determine the capability of the satellite-based sensors to identify specific meteorological phenomena. Particulate and thermal conditions of rivers and lakes were also considered. LANDSAT could resolve meteorological features, such as single cloud elements, but since a given spot is observed only once every nine days, it is quite unsuitable for studying the motion of weather patterns. Slow-changing phenomena such as lake ice, snow cover and particulate content of water bodies are more effectively defined. NOAA satellites provide the twice-daily coverage needed for monitoring fog, smoke, plumes, and small-scale cloud patterns. Unfortunately, the resolution of the NOAA-VHRR was generally inadequate for identification of small meteorological features associated with industrial development. Satellites of the near future will have better instruments for covering the meteorology of the oil sands but no combination of their output is expected to provide ideal time and space resolution. Future studies of this type should find satellite images easily available because of rapidly improving Canadian sources and because of the explanation of image acquisition given in this study.