Cold Lake Sun - May 6, 2013

The annual freeze-up and break-up of ice in Cold Lake has long been a source of interest for Brian Samuel and Garth Petterson.

Samuel and Petterson, who live on Cold Lake and took over monitoring those occurrences from Eugene Martin, have more than a half-century of data about these occurrences. 

“I come up with the dates” and Petterson does the graph, said Samuel, adding the pair do it for fun.

Over the past 53 years, the latest break-up occurred on May 29, 1979, while the earliest one was on April 26, 1998. The earliest freeze-up was on Nov. 30 (in 1985 and 1996) while the latest occurred Jan. 15, 2012... Click here to read more. 

The Environment and Water Ministry and the Sustainable Resource Development Ministry were combined into one ministry, a year ago today. On the AESRD’s blog Minister McQueen highlights the achievements of the department in the following areas: integrated resource managment, environmental monitoring, single regulator, land-use planning, water, climate change and forestry. Click here to read her blog post.

Calgary Herald - May 3, 2013

Three dozen landowner, labour, aboriginal and environmental groups are demanding that the man hired to head Alberta's new energy regulator resign before he even starts.

A letter signed by such organizations as the Treaty 8 First Nations, the Alberta Federation of Labour and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment says industry insider Gerry Protti is not the appropriate choice.

"I've seen biased appointments before, but this one tops the list," said Don Bester of the Alberta Surface Rights Group, which represents landowners...Click here to read more. 

Mountain View Gazette - April 16th

Eighty-five people attended an open house at the Eagle Hill Community Centre on April 8 for the release of the Sundre Petroleum Operator’s Group’s new beneficial management practices for hydraulic fracturing.

Prepared over the past year with input from industry and community members, the management practices document has been developed to bridge the gap between government regulations and public expectations, said SPOG executive director Tracey McCrimmon.

“We are trying to find out what we can do to go above and beyond,” said McCrimmon. “We hope that we’ve addressed the concerns raised in our community and acknowledge that there are issues that continue to exist outside of SPOG’s boundary but we remain committed and focused on addressing the needs and concerns of our stakeholders.” ... Click here to read more.

Calgary Herald - May 2, 2013

As 2,600 volunteers gather along Calgary rivers and in parks this weekend for the 46th Annual Pathway and River Clean Up, the city is looking to reinvent the initiative in such a way that within 10 years it may no longer be needed.

Last year, volunteers collected more than 5,700 kilograms of waste, a significant increase from the previous year’s totals... Click here to read more.

 

 

Calgary Herald - May 3, 2013

A giant centipede striding across the Alberta prairie is a monument – of sorts – to Eugene Whelan, the former federal agriculture minister who died Feb. 19, 2013 at age 88.

It looks like a giant centipede, but it’s the Brooks Aqueduct, a rather unusual tourist attraction left behind by a much earlier prairie drought.

When it opened for business in 1910, the aqueduct was the world's longest elevated concrete structure. Construction engineers from Canadian Pacific Railway built the three-km aqueduct to carry water across a valley that interrupted one of its long earthen irrigation canals...Click here to read more.

Edmonton Journal - May 1, 2013

If hundreds of ducks die on a tailings pond or a pipeline bursts, Alberta Environment won’t be investigating or be involved in any charges against oil companies.

Those powers — to investigate spills and infractions, and apply penalties — move to an arm’s-length agency, the new Alberta Energy Regulator, a body run by cabinet appointees reporting to the minister of energy and mostly paid for by the industry.

The AER is expected to be operating by June.

Energy Minister Ken Hughes said he’s confident the new AER will take on its new role as environmental enforcer role with vigour. To assist in that, the government recently increased fines for polluters up to $500,000, he said. ... Click here to read more.

Edmonton Journal - April 30th

Life in downtown Edmonton could be beachy after councillors enthusiastically endorsed the concept of a sandy play area beside the river in Louise McKinney Park.

The 420-square-metre “urban beach” near Grierson Hill Road would be aimed at lounging rather than swimming because officials can’t control the safety or quality of the North Saskatchewan River, Lyall Brenneis, manager of the community strategies and development branch, said Tuesday.

“It’s really about a sand experience, a sunbather experience, not a water experience.” ... Click here to read more.

Edmonton Journal - April 30th

Alberta’s lead agency for energy and environmental research is spending $10 million to support 18 water projects, including one that deals with oilsands process water.

“These projects will provide the crucial information we need to support an actionable strategy for safe, secure and sustainable water for Albertans,” said Eddy Isaacs, chief executive of Alberta Innovates — Energy and Environment Solutions.

The 18 research projects range from work on developing a monitoring scheme to detect arsenic in well water to validating reclamation targets for wetland habitats. ... Click here to read more.

Calgary Herald - April 29th

Building a diamond mine, expanding an oilsands mine, offshore exploration or an interprovincial bridge could soon require a federal environmental review under proposed additions and subtractions to the Harper government's new environmental rules.

But provincially regulated pipelines, facilities used to process the heavy oil from the oilsands, pulp and paper mills as well as chemical explosive plants are among those being deleted from a list of projects requiring federal environmental investigations prior to approval.

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The latest proposed changes, now subject to a 30-day consultation period that began on April 20, would also delete groundwater extraction facilities, provincially regulated electrical transmission lines, a wide range of mining projects, as well as steel mills, metal smelters and pharmaceutical plants. ... Click here to read more.

CBC News - April 26th

The company that owns a pipeline that leaked 28,000 barrels of crude oil near the a First Nations community in northwest Alberta — the largest spill in the province in 35 years — is now facing environmental charges.

Plains Midstream Canada ULC is facing three counts under the province's Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act:

The April 2011 spill of almost 4.5 million litres of oil contaminated eight acres of beaver ponds and muskeg in a densely forested area. ... Click here to read more.

Edmonton Journal - April 26th

Environmental groups want the federal government to get involved in the investigation into the Suncor leak of industrial waste water into the Athabasca River and consider laying charges if warranted.

Provincial tests done earlier this month showed toxic substances were found in waste water that flowed into the river, and that should trigger federal involvement under the Fisheries Act, said Melissa Gorrie of Ecojustice, speaking on behalf of five groups including Greenpeace, the Athabasca River Keepers and Public Interest Alberta.

“The provincial waters analysis shows there were deleterious substances flowing into the river, and that violates the federal fisheries act,” said Gorrie, who sent a letter to the deputy minister of environment and the director of public prosecutions. ... Click here to read more.

St Albert Gazette - April 24th

County council wants to see if Alexander First Nation can keep paying its water bills before it waives about $40,000 in late penalties assessed to the band.

Council voted 5-0 in favour of waiving some $41,071.42 in late penalties on Alexander provided it continues to pay its water bills on time for the next six months. Councillors Karen Shaw and Ken McGillis were absent.

Alexander gets 80 per cent of its water from Epcor through Sturgeon County, reads a report to council, with the remaining 20 per cent coming from private wells. The band’s water bill works out to about $10,000 a month. ... Click here to read more.

CBC News Edmonton - April 22nd

Environmental monitoring data from Alberta's oilsands region is now accessible online at a web portal launched Monday by the federal and Alberta governments.

"Today, as the world celebrates Earth Day and showcases commitments to protecting the environment, Canada is contributing and doing our part, by delivering on our collective promise to ensure that scientific data from the monitoring activity is transparent and accessible," federal Environment Minister Peter Kent said in announcing the launch of the Canada-Alberta Environmental Monitoring Information Portal.

"With this portal, our respective governments are actively encouraging informed discussions and analysis on the impacts of oilsands development." ... Click here to read more.

Edmonton Journal - April 12th

The province on Friday released the results of water tests conducted after water leaked last month from Suncor’s oilsands facility into Alberta’s Athabasca River.

The test results show the undiluted waste water contained arsenic, ammonia, chloride and a host of other chemicals at levels above those deemed acceptable in Alberta’s Surface Water Guidelines.

However, the waste water was mixed with treated water before it was released into the river on March 25, and it is not yet clear how much, if any, chemicals were released. ... Click here to read more.

Edmonton Journal - April 11th

Environment Canada wants oil and gas companies to come clean about the unidentified fluids they inject deep underground to extract natural gas.

In newly released correspondence obtained by Postmedia News, the department’s top official told the main Canadian oil and gas lobby group that the government needed more information about the industrial process, commonly known as fracking: fracturing shale rock formations underground with fluids to extract the gas.

Paul Boothe, the former deputy minister, wrote that a new industry voluntary disclosure program was a “positive step” toward improving environmental performance, increasing transparency and the “use of fluids with the least environmental risk.”

But his letter to Dave Collyer, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, also suggested the environment department, which has authority to

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Calgary Herald - April 11th

A pond closed due to an oil spill into the Red Deer River has reopened for fishing this spring, but restrictions remain for the rest of the affected area.

Last June, a Plains Midstream Canada pipeline leaked up to 480,000 litres of sour crude oil into the central Alberta river.

The Dickson Trout Pond, which had fishing conditions placed on it after the leak, was given the all-clear earlier this month by Alberta Health Services.

“There is no risk for human consumption of the stocked trout in the pond,” said an emailed statement from Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. ... Click here to read more.

Edmonton Journal - April 10th

The Alberta government has ordered the former director of two Red Deer-area businesses to clean up the soil and groundwater after the new owner of the property discovered storage tanks and barrels that were leaking toxic chemicals.

In October 2008, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development launched an investigation that revealed contamination had occurred at the industrial site from a variety of chemicals that included benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, xylene and petroleum hydrocarbons.

The contaminants are consistent with products and substances that were used and stored at the site by companies formerly operated by Jerry McInnis while distributing chemicals to the oil and gas industry, an Environmental Protection Order issued on March 25 says. ... Click here to read more.

Edmonton Journal - April 10th

An Alberta firm that violated the province’s Water Act at one of its work sites in the oilsands has been fined $100,000, with a majority of funds earmarked to establish wetlands that contain plants of cultural significance to aboriginal communities.

In provincial court in Fort McMurray last month, Grizzly Oil Sands ULC pleaded guilty to breaching conditions of a water usage licence obtained in conjunction with construction and exploration activities at one of its bitumen mining properties in the region.

As part of its sentence, $90,688 is being used to bankroll a revegetation project near Conklin in which plants for food, medicinal and spiritual purposes will be reintroduced, including Sweetgrass, paper birch, Labrador tea, bearberry, bog cranberry and dwarf raspberry. The remaining $9,312 will be paid as a fine. ... Click here to read more.

The Drumheller Mail - April 10th

If April showers bring May flowers, what does April snow bring?

Residents throughout the area breathed a sigh of relief nearly two weeks ago as it seemed winter was finally releasing its icy grip on the area.

The snow, which was knee-deep in some areas, quickly melted under the warm weather. The quick melt and chilly weather have been playing havoc on the area.

Town of Drumheller crews have been busy trying to keep up with the demands of a wet and cold spring. ... Click here to read more.

Calgary Herald - April 9th

In the latest dispute over water in Okotoks, Alberta’s environmental appeals board is hearing a case from a developer that had its water licence cancelled by the province.

The appeal, which started Tuesday in Calgary, was launched by Sandstone Springs Development after Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development pulled its earlier approval of a preliminary certificate (or licence).

...

A licence was initially granted, but it was appealed by the Town of Okotoks and pulled in February after Alberta Environment determined they hadn’t been given all of the information. ... Click here to read more.

Mountain View Gazette - April 2nd

A month after presenting Alberta cabinet ministers Diana McQueen and Doug Griffiths with 160 letters calling for flood protection work along the Red Deer River, the Sundre-based Red Deer River Quality Control Committee has officially disbanded.

“I think we are extremely high at risk (of flooding) and I think something needs to be done,” said committee chairman and Sundre town councillor Myron Thompson. “I think we did about as good as we could as a committee.

“It was sure nice to see people do what they did, and that’s the best that you can do. I just hope the province will take the efforts to heart.”

The committee was formed last year in an attempt to have the government address flooding concerns from west of Sundre to the Dickson Dam. High water in the spring of 2012 damaged private and public property along the river. ... Click here to read more.

Edmonton Journal - April 6th

A major ammonia surge in the North Saskatchewan River has left Edmonton’s tap water tasting of chlorine and is challenging Epcor staff with their most difficult spring run-off in five years.

But the water is safe, Epcor spokesman Tim le Riche said Friday. “There’s no health risk. We are monitoring all the time. The water is safe to drink.”

Still, it’s nasty for those who are sensitive to it.

Some residents said it tasted off, others said it was like a swimming pool. Lindsey Walker found the chlorine bleach smell in the tap water Thursday night was so strong, she decided not to take a shower. ... Click here to read more.

CBC News - April 5th

The Alberta government is considering expanding its mandatory water well testing program to include areas near fracking activity.

Currently, the program tests water quality for gas sites that use the coalbed methane extraction method, which was popular several years ago. However, it does not require water quality testing at sites where oil and gas are extracted by fracking.

"Right now, the program does not apply to those particular types of activity," says Steve Wallace, a groundwater policy advisor with Alberta Environment. "However, we are certainly considering expanding our [coalbed methane] requirements to hydraulic fracking." ... Click here to read more.

Edmonton Journal - April 5th

The Fort McKay First Nation is complaining that it had to pursue officials at Suncor for information last week after 350,000 litres of industrial waste water spilled into the Athabasca River in the oilsands north of Fort McMurray.

Fort McKay is the band nearest Suncor’s base of operations, but band spokeswoman Dayle Hyde said Thursday that members had to learn about the March 25 spill from two other sources. They tried to contact the company, but were unable to reach officials designated in an emergency plan drawn up in 2011 after toxic water was discharged into the river for three days from a treatment pond at the same site.

“Suncor is generally good to work with, but at the time we worked with them to develop a protocol because we felt we weren’t properly notified,” Hyde says. “Now two years later, we have had a second incident — and the new protocol that

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