Oil sand tailings water in the Athabasca River
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SubjectGroundwater; Hyporheic zone; Mining sludge; Naphthenic acid; Oilsand process affected water; Tailings pond
This study developed a screening level methodology for surveillance of oil sands process-affected water that had potentially migrated to groundwater in the oil sands development area of northern Alberta, Canada. We pilot a forensic surveillance methodology to investigate the hyporheic zone of the Athabasca River adjacent to Suncor’s Pond 8a. A key step in the method is the use of a drive-point piezometer to probe for elevated conductivity in an area of active hyporheic upwelling to Athabasca River bottom. Fieldwork produced high conductivity samples that resemble Oil Sands Process-Affected Water (OSPW) suggesting OSPW from at least one of Suncor’s tailings ponds reaches the Athabasca River. The scale and scope of the research methodology are within the range of stakeholder resources.
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