The Trace Metals and Air Contaminants Working Group (TMAC) has completed a review and assessment of present and future risks posed by trace metals to human health and ecosystems in the north-eastern Alberta oil sands area. Aluminum, cadmium, mercury, nickel, and vanadium were selected for detailed review and assessment based on known metal emissions from the oil sands facilities in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB), as well as public concern about metal deposition.
The remaining metals are not emitted in the region, or are emitted in such small quantities they appear unlikely to pose an ecological or health risk. Nickel and vanadium were chosen because concentrations of these two metals are known to be elevated in the soils in the vicinity of the oil sands facilities, although there was little indication of uptake by vegetation or animals.
Aluminum was selected because soil aluminum may be mobilised if soils are acidified. Mercury was chosen because of the known elevation of mercury concentrations in walleye in the Athabasca River system. Cadmium was selected because it is a concern in Canada’s arctic, with respect to native diets.
A consulting firm was commissioned to do the detailed review and assessment of deposition, uptake, and accumulation of the five selected trace metals. This review and assessment is reported in "Review and Assessment of the Deposition and Potential Bioaccumulation of Trace Metals", prepared by Dillon Consulting Limited for the TMAC working group in July 2001.
This document summarizes the key conclusions in the Dillon report and presents the TMAC working group’s conclusions and trace metals management recommendations for consideration by the Cumulative Environmental Management Association.