“On September 24, the first ever tanker to ship bitumen on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin left the port of Sorel-Tracey in Quebec. The tanker, the Minerva-Gloria, carried an estimated 700,000 barrels of bitumen to Sardinia, Italy… There are plans to ship 20 to 30 vessels like this each year along the St. Lawrence River.”
The Council of Canadians also noted that the Quebec government and Transport Canada “approved these shipments without a thorough environmental assessment, public consultation and free, prior and informed consent of indigenous communities and municipalities.”
Suncor transports bitumen every day via CN Rail from Alberta to a storage facility operated by Kildair Services in Quebec and from there, it is put on ships that travel up the St. Lawrence River to various destinations. At least one Quebec MP – the Bloc Québécois’ Louis Plamondon – expressed concern about the federal government’s ability to respond to a spill, especially since the train derailments in Wadena, Saskatchewan in October 2014 and the horrible deaths that resulted from a derailment in Lac Mégantic in July 2013.
Diluted bitumen “sinks in water, making cleanup efforts far more difficult,” the council noted. “A spill or accident would devastate the Great Lakes or any of the thousands of waterways these current and proposed pipelines cross.” In fact, “Pipeline ruptures of Alberta dilbit (bitumen) in the U.S. have proven devastating to the local watersheds.”
At the Alberta tar sands, nearly 2 million barrels of bitumen are processed each day. This takes about three to five barrels of water to “steam blast” and produce one barrel of oil. Over the course of a year, the amount of water used equates to residential use by nearly 2 million people. At that rate, the Pembina Institute has estimated that by 2050 the flow of water from the Athabasca River is expected to decrease by 30 percent.
But that’s not the entire process. The used water is then put into lagoons that are so toxic and dangerous that “birds die on impact.” According to scientist David Schindler, 170 sq. km of “poisoned lakes leach 11 million liters of toxic water into the watershed every day. If current expansion plans are realized, the Alberta tar sands could one day be using – and destroying – about 20 million barrels of water per day.”
Most Canadians know little if anything about the health of their groundwater and oil production is just one part of the equation.
“Climate change, industrial farming, melting glaciers, wetland and forest destruction, oil, gas and mineral extraction and the dumping of waste into our waterways are all growing threats to our diminishing water supplies.”