Ottawa says Kearl leaks harmful to wildlife; issues order to stop seepage

Federal inspectors are confirming that two releases of oilsands tailings water from Imperial Oil's Kearl mine are harmful to wildlife.

Environment Canada is issuing an order to Imperial that it must take immediate action to stop the continued seeping of tailings from a containment pond to prevent it from getting into fish-bearing waters.

Federal inspectors are to return to the Kearl site in northern Alberta in the coming days to assess the measures Imperial has taken to stop the seeping, which is occurring on land near two tributaries to the Athabasca River.

Officers are to remain at the site to monitor the cleanup as well as collect more information to see if the federal Fisheries Act has been broken.

Seepage from the Kearl site was first noticed last May, but neither Imperial nor the Alberta Energy Regulator kept local First Nations or provincial and federal environment officials briefed, despite requirements to do so.

News of the leak was released Feb. 7, after another release of 5.3 million litres of tailings from a catchment pond at the Kearl site.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2023.

The Canadian Press