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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
Canadian Petroleum Heritage
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Water

Oil products are recognized today as having environmental costs that must be weighed against economic benefits. The water needed to survive is one cost we cannot afford to pay. Water pollution can be from oil spills, containment of tailings from oil sands mining, and by products of industry production. One example is the pollution of Lake Ontario. Over 360 chemical compounds have been identified in the Great Lakes. Many are persistent toxic chemicals like lead or benzopyrene, both of which are dangerous to humans and to the aquatic ecosystems. Populations of fish, birds, and mammals appear to be on the decline. Of the ten most highly valued species of fish in Lake Ontario, seven have now almost totally vanished.
Another concern is acid rain, which originated with emissions from coal-fired generators, non-ferrous metal smelters, petroleum refineries, and from motor vehicle exhaust. The released sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are converted to sulphuric and nitric acids in the atmosphere. These acids return to earth through wet sulphate and or nitrate deposition including rain, snow, and fog. This seeps into ground water which is used for drinking.

WaterLeaks in pipelines with oil or gas escaping are also a concern. Not only does this poison the soil but also leaks into lakes or fresh water supplies. Oil spills are an environmental concern that many people associate with the oil and gas industry. In reality, the exploration and production of oil and gas rarely creates an oil spill. Most oil spills are primarily from transportation, particularly involving the tankers that are used to move oil from where it is produced to where consumers need it.

The petroleum industry is focused on balancing commerce with the environment. Under various governmental guidelines in regards to pollution, the industry has created strong goals and mandates as environmental stewards. One example is the Instrumented Watershed Research program and Watershed Research Team run by Syncrude Canada Limited. It includes researchers and graduate students from various Canadian universities. Each group or team studies different aspects of instrumented watershed research and all together the WRT works to characterize Syncrude's various reclamation landscapes.


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