Since April 26, there have been several days when more than more than 100 birds – mostly grebes and shorebirds – have landed on tailings ponds, a spokesman for the company told Reuters.
Over this period, about 60 oiled birds have been collected, of which 50 have died, the spokesman said. Partially oiled birds are being rehabilitated, he added.
The landings have occurred despite on-site deterrent systems, which operate throughout the annual bird migration and breeding season, the spokesman said.
In 2010, a judge fined Canadian oil sands producer Syncrude Canada Ltd after finding it guilty in the deaths of 1,600 ducks that landed on a toxic Northern Alberta tailings pond in 2008. ()
Oil sands operators must have systems in place to deter birds from landing on their tailings ponds, which are filled with wastewater, clay, heavy metals and residual oil, byproducts of the oil sands extraction process.
Imperial’s spokesman said the exhausted birds likely landed at the Kearl site despite the deterrents because most of the natural water bodies in the area were still mostly frozen, due to the extended winter.
“The appropriate regulatory bodies have been engaged and we are providing them regular updates,” the spokesman added.