Groundwater Quality - Oil Sands Region
Shallow groundwater and the interaction of these waters with surface water in the mineable area of the Athabasca oil sands region are being examined to assess the role and importance of groundwater in the regional river ecosystems.
Groundwater quality chemistry data is available from 182 shallow groundwater samples collected below the Athabasca, Ells, Muskeg and Steepbank rivers and 2 monitoring wells near an existing tailings impoundment. Additionally 5 surface water samples were also collected for comparative purposes. All samples were collected between 2009 and 2011 and include analyses for up to 60 parameters, including electrical conductivity, pH, temperature, and dissolved oxygen concentration, major ions, trace metals, total concentrations of naphthenic acids, fluorescence intensity using synchronous fluorescence spectroscopy (SFS) and others. Statistical analyses indicate that shallow riparian groundwater proximate to a tailings pond and groundwater collected away from the any tailings pond were indistinguishable for nearly all parameters assessed with a few exceptions. The analyses also identified a small subset of groundwater samples that have some chemical similarities to OSPW (Oil Sands Process-Affected Water). Further investigations may be required to evaluate the nature and ecological significance of groundwater at these locations.
Further context, interpretation and discussion of this data may be found in “Profiling oil sands mixtures from industrial developments and natural groundwaters for source identification,” which was published in Vol. 48 (5), pp. 2660–2670, January 2014 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology and “Assessing risks of shallow riparian groundwater quality near an oil sands tailings pond” published in 2016 in the journal Groundwater (Vol. 54, No. 4, pp. 545-558).
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