Suncor reports release of water from sediment pond at Alberta oilsands mine

Source: iStock

Suncor has reported six million litres of water that exceed sediment guidelines have been released into the Athabasca River from a pond at its Fort Hills oilsands mine.

“Suncor took action to stop the discharge system and the release has been stopped,'' said a note from the Alberta Energy Regulator sent to area First Nations on Monday.

The note said the water is from a pond used to settle suspended solids in surface water that runs in from various parts of the site. The water has drained from muskeg, rock and soil overlaying the bitumen, material being stored for reclamation and other areas of the site that are undisturbed by mining.

Suncor spokeswoman Erin Rees characterized the release as “surface water that has a high natural silt content.''

Normally, the sediments are allowed to settle, and the water is emptied into a creek that drains into the Athabasca River.

But on Sunday, Suncor reported that levels of solids suspended in the water were more than twice the allowed limit.

Suncor said it has stopped outflow from the pond and is studying the cause of the problem and how it affected water quality.

Spokespeople for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation said the bands were notified of the release Monday.

Environment Canada has also confirmed that it was notified.

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said he didn't have much more information than what was published by the Alberta Energy Regulator on Monday.

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