The Athabasca Tar Sands Has Caused Great Environmental Damage
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The Athabasca tar sands are the 2nd largest tar sands in the world, covering an area over the size of the state of Florida. The tar sands are estimated to have enough oil to produce 1.7-2.5 trillion barrels of oil (Levant 4), and this large supply of oil has made Canada the #1 supplier of oil to America. The oil in Athabasca is originally Bitumen, which has a thick texture, almost like peanut butter, and plasters sand and minerals, which makes it very difficult to remove and produce. 80% of the oil is over 75 meters underneath the surface (Riebeek), and can only be removed by depositing hot water into the mine so that the oil can condense and be extracted. This process is not only very expensive, but also has devastating environmental…show more content… These tailings ponds leak 67 litres of the toxic water into the Athabasca River every second (*2). This has caused the levels of toxic hydrocarbons in the nearby lakes and rivers to become 2.5-23 times what it was before the development (Cotter). The Athabasca river has also become extremely low, and the Athabasca glacier has receded 1.5km since the tar sands expanded. The Alberta government is aware of the growing water subject, and is trying to alleviate this impact by putting water limits and weekly limits on how much water the oil companies can use (Alberta’s Oil Sands 5). They are also attempting to recycle the toxic water to moderate the environmental impact. Alberta Premier, Ed Stelmach, says, There has been a lot of talk lately about whose targets are toughest, or whose plan is better. While others are talking, Alberta is acting. Our climate change plan ensures environmental protection while allowing for continued economic growth. It is practical and achievable (Alberta’s Oil Sands 10).
Although the government is trying to lessen the water impact, they are quite late, and some of the impacts are not possible to be fixed at this point. Another affect of the toxic water seeping into the river is the impacts it has on the nearby First Nations communities. The First Nations people in Fort Chipewyan are so concerned about the affects the are begin forced to consider leaving the town built by their ancestors (*2). The once