NW Week

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The NWT does not support the release of oil sands water

oil sands water of Canada

Key Takeaways:

  • The environment minister of the Northwest Territories says the territory is opposed to a reported federal plan to release treated oilsands tailings water back into the environment.
  • The proposal would allow for the discharge of treated water used in the mining process.

However, some experts argue that storing the water in massive tailings ponds is safer. On the other hand, the Northwest Territories is located downstream of many oilsands facilities, and communities have long communicated concern about industry’s impact on their water.

Even before the news that treated tailings water could be released, Smith’s Landing First Nation Chief Gerry Cheezie stated his opposition to “the environmental pollution that’s coming out of the oil sands projects and the lack of federal or provincial response.”

The news reported that the federal government’s regulations, which Cabin Radio has not seen, would require that released water meet a certain standard but not necessarily be clean enough to drink.

An oil sand Canada adjacent to boreal forest outside of Fort McMurray; Image from Inside Climate News

The Fort McKay First Nation, which is surrounded by 20 tailings ponds, told the broadcaster that it does not want to “swap one environmental liability. Which is the tailings ponds at the point, for other, which could be deterioration of the rate of the water in the Athabasca River and downstream.”

In the NWT legislature on Tuesday, environment minister Shane Thompson stated that his staff was in “back and forth dialogues” with federal and Alberta counterparts.

“We’re not supportive of this now or in the future,” Thompson said when asked for a territorial government response to the reported federal plan by Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly. “This has been a long-standing problem for our Indigenous governments across the territories, from the Beau Del to Fort Smith.”

They have been heard. We are aware of the concerns. We’re collaborating with them within the framework of the system we have in place right now.”

The Northwest Territories and Alberta have a transboundary water agreement that governs water that eventually flows downstream into the territory.

The NWT government stated at the time of the agreement’s signing in 2015 that it would “provide certainty” and “better ensure waters flowing into the NWT will remain substantially unaltered in quality.”

However, while the agreement commits Alberta to notify the NWT when it plans changes to the way its water is governed, it excludes the federal government.

Source: cabin radio News

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