Alberta Environment prohibits the release of any water that does not meet quality regulations. Syncrude does not discharge process-affected water, waste water or any industrial run-off into local water bodies.
Alberta Environment monitors the Athabasca River and its tributaries throughout the region
The only discharges to the Athabasca River are treated sanitary sewage similar to that discharged by municipalities, diverted clean surface water and basal water from the Aurora Mine via Stanley Creek, and clean surface water from a gravel pit.
Alberta Environment monitors the Athabasca River and its tributaries throughout the region. In addition, the Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP) does extensive monitoring of climate and hydrology, water quality, benthic invertebrate communities, sediment quality, fish populations and fish health, and lakes sensitive to acidity in the Lower Athabasca region. Technical reports are available on-line.
According to regulators, monitoring stations downstream of oil sands operations do not detect any industrial impacts when compared to historical readings of naturally occurring compounds.
In 2010, the Royal Society of Canada commissioned an Expert Panel of Canadian Scientists to review and assess evidence relating to several perceived environmental impacts of the oil sands, including regional water supply. According to their assessment, current evidence does not suggest a threat to the viability of the regional aquatic ecosystem. However, stakeholders remain concerned about downstream impacts.
To address ongoing concerns, a government-sponsored contaminant load study is currently underway that is examining how air particulates, land disturbance and drainage may affect water quality. Also, in early 2012, the Alberta and Canadian governments announced a joint implementation plan for integrated environmental monitoring in the oil sands region. The plan builds on monitoring already in place and outlines a phased, adaptive implementation approach to monitoring over the next three years.
In 2014, the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA) was established as the provincial organization which will monitor, evaluate and report on key air, water, land and biodiversity indicators. According to the government, the organization's mandate is to provide open and transparent access to scientific data and information on the condition of Alberta’s environment, including specific indicators as well as culmulative effects, both provincially and in specific locations. For more information, visit aemera.org.