To date, the results of environmental monitoring show that low levels of oil sands development-related contaminants are present in both air and water. In almost all water and air samples, levels of oil sands development-related contaminants are below relevant environmental guidelines, and levels decrease with increasing distance from oil sands development. Overall, the levels of contaminants in water and in air are not a cause for concern.

Nevertheless, there were some air samples from sites closer to oil sands mining and upgrading facilities that had polyaromatic hydrocarbons twice as high as the concentrations measured at sites further away. This result is attributed to the close proximity to the actual development. In addition, some water samples measured total metal concentration at levels that exceeded Canadian Council Ministers of the Environment guidelines in spring and summer seasons. This is a known seasonal variation in the Athabasca River and is due, in part, to natural characteristics of the river.

Air quality monitoring using satellite data showed a distinct concentration of NO2 and SO2 in the atmosphere over the oil sands region, comparable to what would be seen over a single large emitter of these gases such as a coal-burning power plant, or over a metropolitan area such as Toronto. Measurements of total gaseous mercury (TGM) were comparable to average measures ofTGM across Canada. Examination of invertebrate and ecosystem health in the Athabasca River and some tributaries showed the presence of diverse aquatic benthic life.

These are very early results and should be interpreted in that context. As environmental monitoring is continued, results will become more meaningful, with a greater diversity of monitoring results available and longer time series.

To view the latest results and data, select a monitoring component from the menu.