Pollution knows no boundaries

Environmentalists want Ottawa to set caps on emissions from Alberta’s oilsands that are likely responsible for acid rain falling over northern Saskatchewan’s pristine rivers and lakes.

Environmentalists want Ottawa to set caps on emissions from Alberta’s oilsands that are likely responsible for acid rain falling over northern Saskatchewan’s pristine rivers and lakes.

“It’s not just regulation on every individual plant that’s needed. There also needs to be a regional cap that’s established for the industry,” said Peter Prebble of the Saskatchewan Environmental Society. “The federal government has the authority to do so.”

Alberta’s oilsands are located just west of the boundary between the two provinces. The massive industrial plants emit more than 150,000 tonnes of acid-rain-causing gases every year and previous studies have suggested that about 70 per cent of those gases blow into Saskatchewan.

The province has been monitoring rainfall in the La Loche area just across from Fort McMurray. Results from nine samples over 18 months that ended last March showed an average pH level of 4.93. That level is about three times as acidic as unpolluted rainfall and about the same acidity as a cup of black coffee.

“We do have concerns and have been putting significant resources in to determine what the baseline situation is up there,” said Murray Hilderman, air policy analyst for Saskatchewan Environment.

He cautions that the data so far is limited.

“We wouldn’t be able to get a trend with just a couple of years data,” Hilderman said.

The province is sampling hundreds of lakes in northwestern Saskatchewan to find out what’s happening in the area. Alberta Environment — which has been monitoring the area for 40 years — says acid in both the rain and the soil is within acceptable limits.

“We haven’t seen anything moving toward those (limits),” said spokeswoman Lisa Grotkowski.

The province’s field measurements suggest soil pH in the oilsands region has hovered around 4 since 2004, Grotkowski said. The level at which vegetation begin to be affected is between 3.7 and 4.

Acid rain forms when chemicals such as sulphur dioxide and various nitrogen oxides are expelled from smokestacks and mix with atmospheric moisture. Too much soil acid damages trees roots and leaches nutrients too deep for plants to use.

Prebble said it’s important to start thinking beyond boundaries.

“There needs to be pressure from the Saskatchewan government to say to Alberta, ’Listen, your pollution is putting our lakes at risk and we need a new set of regulations.”’

“If an end result can’t be produced through that process, then the government of Canada needs to step in.”

Alberta and Saskatchewan signed an agreement in 2002 to co-operate on air quality issues.

Just Posted

BREAKING: Delburne man found not guilty in connection with 2016 fatal rollover

Daniel Wayne Newsham had been on trial for manslaughter

Loan officer accused of $1 million fraud to plead guilty

Accused allegedly forged customer names to get loans while working at Sylvan Lake bank

Red Deer to get new plan to end homelessness as problem persists

Despite some successes there’s ‘a long way to go,’ says manager

‘A stronger Alberta:’ Ottawa announces $1.6B for Canada’s oil and gas sector

Ottawa is spending $1.6 billion to help struggling energy companies stay afloat,… Continue reading

Canada ranks 16th on World Economic Forum’s annual gender gap list

TORONTO — Canada has landed the 16th spot in the World Economic… Continue reading

Chabot scores overtime winner to lift Senators over Predators 4-3

OTTAWA — Thomas Chabot saw an opening and he took it. And… Continue reading

Canadian Marielle Thompson earns World Cup ski cross bronze in season opener

AROSA, Switzerland — Canada’s Marielle Thompson captured bronze at the opening World… Continue reading

Canada doesn’t make Oscars short list for best foreign language film

LOS ANGELES — Canada is no longer in the running for best… Continue reading

Warrant issued for arrest of ‘Schwimmer lookalike’ suspect

LONDON — A British judge has issued an arrest warrant for an… Continue reading

Moneywise: Canadian workers unhappy with pay, want pension plans

Many working Canadians are feeling underpaid and are so worried about their… Continue reading

Brazil police say faith healer has turned himself in

RIO DE JANEIRO — A celebrity faith healer accused of sexually abusing… Continue reading

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

VANCOUVER — Nicola Froese says she has always loved playing sports, but… Continue reading

Canada’s Kim McRae finishes seventh at luge World Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y.

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Canada’s Kim McRae finished in seventh place at… Continue reading

Most Read