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North Atlantic Logbook

Looking at "Big Time"... from 20,000 BC onward

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What Oil Shale Sand Exploitation Actually Exploits - Athabasca Tar Sands Poison Comes Home to Roost
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michaelbix
Syncrude's & others' big oil shale gamble falls on 1st Nations & wildlife down river. It can't be hidden, more to come. http://bit.ly/9JsC5W

I'll soon re-share more details of my readings and exploration from last year and before - showing the downstream devastation of the Athabascan and other major rivers in Alberta and Saskatchewan... heading north through tribal lands, habitat & migration routes... to arrive polluted at the Arctic Ocean. Just like in the open ocean, the food chain concentrates heavy metals & poisons at the top - in bear, wolves, salmon, raptors.

The Canadian journalistic community has been divided on this for a long time & many "activists" about pollution & tribal exploitation in *other* countries shrug off or even deny the harm to First Nations, animal habitats & the environment.

BP's oil spill is hidden deep in the lower waters of the Gulf and re-circulates slowly through deeps and trenches where some forms of life are grinding to a halt, de-oxygenated and poisoned. Syncrudes toxicities are incremental and equally hidden build-ups of heavy metals like cadmium and even silver... landing in wetlands and muddy river bottoms, and ultimately pouring out into the ocean via the deltas of the MacKenzie and Slave Rivers as a pale, greenish-white cloud.



Under high-pressure heated water and/or steam are pumped (often with selected chemical de-binders) into the sticky tar sands deep below Fort McKay Reserve #196. They come back up as an oily slurry which is then processed chemically. The somewhat vile left over sludge is conveyed to the huge piles dominating the landscape by the river. They now know this pile of toxic waste leaches into the Athabascan River as it flows north. Now 3 yrs. bigger than shown, the sludge pile dwarfs human scale. (photo - GoogleEarth, enhanced - Fort McKay Indian Reserve)



The heated water after supposed complete cleaning is either cooled in holding ponds before release back to the river, or recycled. Ranchers upstream on some tar sand extraction rivers (such as the Red River) observe that much water is lost in the process, and the "draw down" of water is so great (and the consequent water uncertain in its quality), that their livestock are parched. These new tests (see article URL) from the past several years increasingly show that the water is NOT fully cleaned... and carries various dissolved or partially dissolved toxins and metal compounds.

There is considerable reason to compare this ecological disaster and its human, animal and ecosystem outcome with the slow-motion disaster that plagued the Great Lakes and its tributaries, all draining out through the St. Lawrence River. Native peoples living along the north and south banks of the St. Lawrence were badly afflicted by toxic metals like mercury both in the water and in their caught food like river trout. Birth defects, cancer, respiratory and heart diseases are still endemic although lessening somewhat with attempts to clean up Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

For a long time the water-borne poisons and airborne aluminum compounds from the GM motorblock plant were totally ignored as health hazards while Canadian and U.S. indigenous families suffered the consequences horribly. The implicit racism behind suppressing health hazard evidence, pooh-poohing native family health claims, siding through regulatory laxness with the manufacturers and polluters (and near non-enforcement of early environmental violations) all served to pit white dominant culture against First Nations people once more.

That was in the '70's and this is now. Another generation of the greedy has bred its young? Buffy St.-Marie painfully speaks to this in several of her more recent albums such as Coincidence and Likely Stories ie. "The Priest of the Golden Bull."

Syncrude's plans are by no means daunted by the accumulating evidence. It intends to open up the vast leased areas reserved for similar treatment on the east banks of the Athabascan, and has already begun surface-stripping the vast thousand-plus hectare area intended for more slurry ponds, sludge piles and treatment plants.




[ All original writing ©2010 Michael Cerulli Billingsley. This is an op-ed essay which relies on other sources for information, at least some of which is still current. Verification of all data is still ongoing. For updates follow http://www.twitter.com/redactyl ]

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