Study finds tar sands operations broadcast airborne mercury

By on January 13, 2014

Airborne mercury wafting off of Canada’s tar sands mining and production facilities in northeast Alberta has been found in a 19,000 square kilometer area surrounding operations, according to a report from the Vancouver Sun.

A study conducted by Environment Canada found that mercury is deposited in the surrounding environment at levels up to 16 times greater than levels considered background traces.

Researchers take snow core samples from nearly 100 sites each March. Cores are analyzed in a laboratory for contaminants. Contaminant loading from snow melt is also estimated from samples.

The greatest concentration of deposited airborne mercury was 1,000 nanograms per square meter.  A maximum of 19 nanograms of methyl mercury were also found in some sites closer to oil sands operations.

Image: Alberta tar sands (Credit: Howl Arts Collective, via Flickr)

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