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WBEA Response to “A Foundation for the Future: Building an Environmental Monitoring System for the Oil Sands”

December 23, 2010

Fort McMurray - The Wood Buffalo Environmental Association (WBEA) acknowledges the significant findings of the Federal Oil Sands Advisory Panel Report “A Foundation for the Future: Building and Environmental Monitoring System for the Oil Sands”, released December 21, 2010.

WBEA is a multi stakeholder, not-for-profit, science-based monitoring organization, headquartered in Fort McMurray, AB, responsible for monitoring air quality and terrestrial environmental effects from industrial emissions to the atmosphere in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region. Our membership comprises environmental non-government organizations such as the Pembina Institute, the Fort McKay First Nations, government, health agencies and industry.

WBEA’s programs are adaptive and have evolved greatly since 2007, following a significant enhancement in funding. WBEA has a highly-trained technical staff and a senior scientist who oversees a team of 20 well-respected Canadian, American and European scientists. These scientists are principal investigators with WBEA and represent a range of universities and agencies. WBEA operates 15 continuous ground level air monitoring stations including 84 analyzers for major air pollutants, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, reduced sulfurs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The network and its data are rigorously scrutinized, quality assured and reported in real-time to the public.  WBEA’s also contributes data to Alberta’s Clean Air Strategic Alliance.

To further strengthen our air quality monitoring program, WBEA recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Environment Canada. The initial project that Environment Canada and WBEA scientists are partnering on will contribute important data on the deposition rate of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

In addition to air quality monitoring, WBEA also operates a Terrestrial Environmental Effects Monitoring program that encompasses the following initiatives:

  • WBEA monitors the health of the boreal forest over the long term through a network of permanent plots.
  • In 2011, WBEA is launching a measurement program using a suite of robust and pollutant - specific early warning indicators.
  • WBEA is engaged with Fort McKay residents who have long-standing traditional knowledge, in the early stages of a berry monitoring project.
  • WBEA is conducting a four-year project to characterize “real-world” emissions from fixed and mobile sources, including the first ever on-board emissions monitoring of the world’s largest mine heavy
    haulers while they are in operation.
  • WBEA is using natural stable isotopes to distinguish between local and long-range pollutant inputs to ecosystems and to trace the fate of emissions.
  • In June 2010, WBEA participated in the 103rd Air and Waste Management Association Conference held in Calgary that attracted some 2500 delegates. A series of 15 WBEA scientific/technical papers presenting the first results of the enhanced monitoring effort were presented in a special Technical Session at the conference.

On May 23, 2011 WBEA will be hosting, in Fort McMurray, an International Symposium “Alberta Oil Sands: Energy, Industry and the Environment”. The Symposium will be followed, on May 24-26, by the 43rd Annual Air Pollution Workshop during which international scientists will discuss air quality and its effects on forests, crops and natural vegetation.

The Wood Buffalo Environmental Association noted that the Federal Oil Sands Advisory Panel Report recognized WBEA’s strategic shift to informative, science-based environmental monitoring when it stated, “WBEA has recently adopted a sound, transparent science approach that permeated all of its activities.”

Dr. Kevin Percy, Lead WBEA Scientist said, “We appreciate that the panel recognized our effective, scientific monitoring program, and we believe that WBEA has a very important role to play in the panel’s recommended shared national vision and management framework for monitoring in the oil sands region.

“We have a solid, state-of-the-art air monitoring system in place and, as always, we are open to further developing and improving that program based on the best science available. We look forward to working collaboratively with other jurisdictions and stakeholders as the recommendations of this report are put into action.”

Click to read: A Foundation for the Future: Building an Environmental Monitoring System for the Oil Sands.

For more information contact:

Melissa Pennell
WBEA Communications
780-977-8440
mpennell@wbea.org