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10 Tuesday June 9 2015 ENVIRONMENT AIR QUALITY FEATURING ARTISTS SUCH AS ELDER MARY CARDINAL A TRIBE CALLED RED VERONICA JOHNNY JASON BURNSTICK THE JOHNNYS ART NAPOLEON STATE OF THE ART K.A.S.P. ASICI ELDER WINSTON WUTTUNEE GERALD AND GERRY POITRAS ISKWEW SINGERS DOMINIC ABRAHAM NORTHERN CREE JORDANN POITRAS MINA KELCEY PIERROT The NWT Cree Language Program gratefully acknowledges the financial contribution from the Department of Education Culture and Employment of the Government of the Northwest Territories. NEHIYAW NIKAMONAK OYOYOWAK OHCI NANASKOMOWIN CREE SONGSHOWLS FOR GRATITUDE Education Culture Economic Development AVAILABLE FOR FREE DOWNLOAD AT NEHIYAWEWIN.COM ON JUNE 21ST 2015 NATIONAL ABORIGINAL DAY MEKIWIN NIKAMONAK FREE ALBUM By MEAGAN WOHLBERG A new study on air quality in Fort McKay asserts the community in the heart of Alber- tas oilsands can breathe easy without fear for their health but the First Nation says the re- search only gives half of the story. A recent paper by Warren Kindzierski of the University of Alberta concluded air pol- lution in Fort McMurray Fort McKay and Fort Chipewyan is not a threat to public health after reviewing air quality data over a 15-year period. While the community feels fortunate to have that kind of long-term data Fort McKay First Nations senior environment and regulatory manager Daniel Stuckless called the study partial saying the pa- rameters monitored for may apply in larger city centres but do not take into consid- eration the unique reality of living amid the oilsands. Those contaminants are typically looked for in assessing air quality in major centres and commonly used across the world but theyre not really entirely appropriate just for the oilsands region and particularly the community that lives in the middle of the boreal forest amongst all this industry he said. Theres a lot more thats emitted from stacks or tailings pipes or off tailings ponds that are not measured on a daily basis and are not factored into the assessment on good or poor air quality. Kindzierskis study analyzed the air for concentrations of sulfur dioxide nitrogen dioxide NO2 and fine particulates con- cluding that there has been little change in concentration from 1998 to 2012. The research suggests small increases in NO2 in Fort McMurray and Fort McKay were due to population growth rather than in- dustry and that the average air quality is comparable to that of other cities. There were no indications of air quality trends in Fort Chipewyan. There is a perception in the Athabasca oilsands region that air quality is poor ac- cording to Kindzierski. Air quality in the communities we studied is actually quite good when compared with larger cities in Alberta and around the world. The problem according to Stuckless is that Fort McKay is not comparable to other cities due to its close proximity to bitumen upgraders and tailings ponds. He said there are hundreds of chemical compounds being emitted from stacks and ponds that were not measured for in the study. Kindzierski wouldnt have 15 years of data for most of those contaminants. Most of them if they are measured are periodic or spotty at best maybe trial or short-term monitoring so its really hard to do a trend analysis with lengthy data gaps Stuckless said. We just dont know what the long-term effects are from some of these pollutants. Stuckless said the community has de- tected compounds through its own moni- toring that arent showing up in Environ- ment Canadas National Pollutant Release Inventory. Those are supposed to be self-reported by oilsands producers he said. So where are they coming from where are they form- ing If were picking up things are we catch- ing them in a state of flux or are we catching them because theyre being emitted and they werent previously recorded Health complaints by residents People in Fort McKay often complain of strong odours in the community and physi- cal symptoms believed to be related to air pollution from oilsands production. I know myself Ive experienced physical reactions to some of the events that weve had in the community like minor irritation of the throat and nose and mouth and eyes. Sometimes theyre annoying and sometimes theyre pretty severe that you want to get them checked out Stuckless said. There are also indirect effects where people change their behaviour he said choosing not to head out on the land or let their children outside to play but the largest concern is that residents feel they dont have enough information which causes stress. It doesnt give us a lot of confidence that the system is working and that Alberta is liv- ing up to this world class regulator image that theyre trying to live up to he said. Fort McKay withdrew from the Joint Oil- sands Monitoring Program over concerns with how First Nations are integrated into the program. For those same reasons they are also not part of the Alberta Environmen- tal Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency the government organization re- sponsible for all environmental monitoring and testing with the province including air quality monitoring. Stuckless said they are now advocating for the improvement of government regula- tions emissions management and monitor- ing hoping to integrate health into the reg- ulatory regime. We dont expect that things are immedi- ately going to change because people can flip the switch but if were going to develop this resource around this community for another 50 or 75 years weve got lots of time to get the proper equipment in place and get the system right he said. Fort McKay air quality study lacking First Nation Emissions from an oilsands upgrader enter the atmosphere across the Athabasca River near Fort McKay. PhotoFrancoisPaulette