Proceedings of Alberta Oil Sands Tailings Wastewater Treatment Technology Workshop

Earl Baddaloo
Resource Date:
Page Length

Syncrude Canada Limited’s Fort McMurray oil sands mining operations has been operating under the concept of zero discharge and total containment of wastewaters since start up in 1978. During this period a considerable volume of contaminated water has been assimulated in a large on-site tailings pond at a substantial costs to the company. This zero discharge philosophy has provided time for a large amount of research to be carried out. Syncrude has requested that Alberta Environment consider controlled (release/reclamation) discharge of treated water as part of the waste control guidelines for the plant; however, as witnessed by recent concerns (i.e., Great Lake Pollution, Edmonton drinking water, etc.), discharge criteria must not only address acute toxicity, but also contaminants that are biologically active in small concentrations over long chronic exposures. This will be necessary for the protection of downstream users (drinking water, sport and commercial fisheries, subsistence fishery, etc.). It is prudent also, that the companies involved should address their major environmental problems while in operation, rather than leaving them for future generations. In response to the formal request from Syncrude to establish discharge criteria for the treatment and release/reclamation of tailings pond water, a departmental committee was formed within Alberta Environment. Meetings have been held and Syncrude has provided an assessment of the treatability of its pond water in relation to the department's \"Wastewater Effluent Guidelines for Alberta Petroleum Refineries\" (1976). In addition to industry research, the federal government’s Panel on Energy Research and Development (PERD) has been funding various projects. Members of the Wastewater Technology Centre in Burlington have also been invited by Syncrude to participate in these studies. To assess the status of collective knowledge and to co-operate/co-ordinate/set priorities for future research, a two-day workshop was planned with industry, public, and various governmental departments and agencies. The goals of the workshop were: 1. To enable free exchange of information and ideas among the various invited groups; 2. To identify priority areas of research and to assist in providing a co-operative effort in order to deal with them; 3. To ensure that research carried out by industry, government, agencies, and the public is well directed and co-ordinated; and 4. To initiate the idea of a co-operative effort with regard to research planning and development to use funds (provided jointly or otherwise) in an efficient manner. The workshop was held on 1985 October 29 and 30 at Mildred Lake Research Station in Fort McMurray, Alberta. It was the first time major issues regarding Alberta oil sands tailings pond had been dealt with by a group comprising industry, federal and provincial governments, agencies, and the public (invited but unable to attend).