Environment Minister Peter Kent today presented Environment Canada’s plan for a new Lower Athabasca Water Quality Monitoring Program.
The Panel, struck in September 2010 to review the environmental monitoring systems of the Athabasca River Basin, presented its findings in December 2010.
“This plan is the first step towards an improved surface water monitoring program,” said Minister Kent. “This will take time, but we are on track, and are committed to getting it right. Our monitoring, research and other actions rise to the challenge of protecting the environment and ensuring the responsible development of the oil sands.”
The plan for the Lower Athabasca Water Quality Monitoring Program highlights the need for water quality measurements to be taken more frequently, and in more places, which will ensure there is sufficient data available to track possible changes.
The plan also highlights that the water monitoring program needs to link with other monitoring systems, such as air quality and biodiversity to ensure a holistic view of environmental quality. To that end, work in underway to develop monitoring approaches for air quality and biodiversity as well.
The plan for the Lower Athabasca Water Quality Monitoring Program will promote the use of an approach designed to allow for the continuous improvement of monitoring and data interpretation. In order to monitor long-term changes and maintain environmental quality within defined levels, it will assess the cumulative effects of oil sands activities.
The plan also promotes transparency and all data will be publicly available.
The development of the plan was led by Environment Canada in collaboration with Alberta Environment. We have both committed to improve efforts in our respective areas of jurisdiction and we will continue to work to deliver improved environmental outcomes in the oil sands.
Planners have also communicated with industry, Aboriginal groups, non-governmental groups, and scientific experts over the past 90 days on the development of this plan. As we begin implementation of the plan and continue the development of future environmental monitoring initiatives, we will continue to maintain a dialogue to ensure the process yields the best results possible.