Oil Sands Remediation – What’s the (end) Point?

Chris Powter
Mark Polet
Page Length

Remediation professionals need some basic information to develop a remediation strategy, implementation plan and schedule, and cost estimate. The information needs include an understanding of: the current and proposed land use; the compounds of potential concern (COPCs); the natural levels and variability of COPCs in the environment; and, the guidelines (endpoints) to be applied. It is assumed that oil sands process-affected water and contaminated soils arising from mineable oil sands development may eventually require remediation. While we have a reasonably good understanding of the proposed land use (a self-sustaining, locally-common boreal forest), there is some uncertainty about the COPCs and considerable uncertainty around the endpoints to be used. Notwithstanding this uncertainty there has been considerable work undertaken to develop remediation options, especially for oil sands process-affected water. Additional work has been done to characterize the natural levels in the environment of some COPCs, and to monitor and model fate and behaviour some COPCs. This paper will review some of the reasons for, and issues arising from, the uncertainty around COPCs and endpoints. The conclusion from this review is that remediation professionals, regulators, industry and stakeholders must begin discussions to resolve the uncertainty so that appropriate guidelines can be set and research and demonstration efforts can be better focused on solving the “real” problem