January 21, 2020

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Life in a toxic town

Letter of the day

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/5/2012 (2820 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Aerial view of Fort McMurray, Alta. in September  2010.

CNS RYAN JACKSON / EDMONTON JOUR

Aerial view of Fort McMurray, Alta. in September 2010.

On the day before Earth Day, you published Fabrice Taylor's piece No better place to be than Fort McMurray (April 21), telling ambitious young Canadians to move to Fort McMurray to make their mark in life by working in the tar sands.

What Taylor neglects to tell them is that this former small northern town is perhaps the most polluted and toxic town in Canada. The challenges in Fort McMurray are far greater than finding a place to live or facing long, dark winters.

The tar sands are made up of over 60 sites that represent the single largest industrial zone in the world. If they are fully developed, the result could be over 50,000 square miles of man-made wasteland.

Already over two billion tons of soil and rock have been stripped away. The tailing ponds (lakes, actually) hold more than two gallons of toxic waste for each gallon of oil produced. These tar sand "lakes" are so vast they may even be seen from space. There are hundreds of toxins in the lakes.

Social problems are also on the rise. The drug of choice in Fort McMurray is cocaine. In fact, cocaine incidents are three times greater in Fort McMurray than in Toronto. Drinking, gambling and prostitution are also rampant. Unfortunately, Fort McMurray's homelessness rate is the highest in Alberta, because not everyone in town earns $200,000 a year.

The multinational oil companies who control the tar sands do throw large pay cheques at their workers, but at what cost to everyone else? The Harper government provides over $1.5 billion in subsidies (or corporate welfare) to them. Who is going to pay to clean up this environmental disaster? Will the Canadian taxpayer get stuck with the bill again?

LAWRENCE SUTHERLAND

Winnipeg

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