Field Vegetation Assessment and Contaminants, Oil Sands Region

Assessing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon and naphthenic acid concentrations in soils collected in 2012 – Field and Laboratory Assessment of Contaminants

The concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and naphthenic acids (NAs) were measured in soil samples collected in 2012. Concentrations at all sites were, with one exception, always below soil quality guidelines established by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME).

PAH concentrations in soil at sites near oil sands industrial development were higher than PAH concentrations in northwestern Saskatchewan. This finding was not unexpected given that PAHs are present in naturally occurring Alberta bitumen. Analysis of the data revealed that only one of the PAH compounds – naphthalene – exceeded the CCME guideline level, by approximately 60%, at a site located on the western edge of the townsite of Fort McMurray.

NA concentrations were similar across all sites, again with the exception of the site near Fort McMurray which had slightly elevated concentrations compared to the other sites.

Results revealed that PAHs and NAs could be detected in the soil samples collected. CCME soil quality guidelines do not currently exist for NAs. It is our expert opinion that the observed concentrations of these contaminants are not likely posing a contamination risk to wildlife populations in the region.


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