Syncrude Says 125 Birds Euthanized At Tailings Pond

Provincial officials say they are investigating after a number of ducks landed on a Syncrude tailings pond north of Fort McMurray. The oil giant reported that some waterfowl had landed on their Mildred Lake Settling Basin Monday evening. Syncrude Canada says it has euthanized 125 birds that landed on one of its toxic tailings ponds in northern Alberta, a move the company blamed on a freezing rain storm that made it difficult for the birds to fly. In a statement posted to its website on Tuesday, the company said waterfowl were found late Monday evening at various locations at its oilsands development site, including roads, parking lots and the Mildred Lake and Aurora settling basins. The company notified provincial officials immediately, the statement said. Of the 200 birds counted at the Mildred Lake tailings pond, 125 had to be killed after coming into contact with bitumen floating on the surface. Syncrude and Alberta government officials are still assessing the remaining birds, the statement said. “We are cooperating fully with regulators and are working to minimize waterfowl losses,” Syncrude president and CEO Scott Sullivan said in the statement. “This is very unfortunate, especially given the significant efforts we have taken to improve our deterrent system.” The company said its waterfowl deterrent system was full operational. After the birds were discovered, company officials used extra air cannons, flare guns and air horns to scare the birds from the Mildred Lake tailings pond, to no avail. The company blamed a freezing rain storm in the area for making it difficult for the birds to fly. Birds found on roads and in parking lots were approachable, “strengthening the opinion that fatigue forced them to land,” the company said. Rob Renner, the province’s environment minister, said Tuesday the latest incident is “discouraging in the extreme.” “I thought we had moved the agenda significantly forward so that this kind of incident would be minimized, but the fact of the matter is that we are now dealing with what appears to be a similar incident. “The timing,” he added, “obviously couldn’t be worse.” The incident comes less than a week after Syncrude was fined $3 million for the deaths of 1,600 ducks in one of its tailings ponds in 2008. In June, a judge ruled the company broke both provincial and federal wildlife laws by failing to prevent birds from landing on its Aurora tailings pond. Lawyers for Syncrude had argued that at the time of the incident, the company was caught unprepared by a late-spring snowstorm and the birds were forced to land on the tailings pond. But court also heard the company had fallen behind setting up some parts of its bird deterrent system. Renner said provincial officials will investigate Syncrude’s claim that the deterrent system was fully operational on Monday. Edmonton MP Linda Duncan, the NDP’s environment critic, said the latest incident proves the tailings ponds must be closed. “This is reprehensible,” Duncan told The Canadian Press. “It makes a mockery of the (recent) conviction. “No amount of penalty or donation to a large institution will prevent thisfrom continuing to happen.” ((26 OCT 2010))












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