July 10, 2013, Fort McMurray, AB – Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) was informed this morning that results from the testing of the oily sheen seen along the Athabasca River and into lake Athabasca has likely been caused by large blue-green algae bloom. The algae was likely caused by run off during record high waters and set into motion by the record high temperatures that followed. When the algae blooms died they released an oily sheen into the river that resembled a petrochemical substance. It is conclusive the sheen was not a petrochemical in nature.
“The ACFN was made aware of the oily sheen on the river late Friday night. Our community monitoring program and employees were deployed first thing Saturday. We were the first on site and the first to assess the situation. Given the nature of the occurrence on the river, coupled with the extensive development upstream in the Athabasca tar sands our communities did not take this incident lightly or casually.
Our people have never seen algae blooms like this in the region and it caused great alarm to our members who rely on the lands and river systems for food, water and sustenance. Given the numerous oil spills, leaks, bursts and breaches seen in the province in recent pasts it becomes easy to understand our concern when situations like this arise. All appropriate precautions were taken including the shutting off of the water intake system in the community of Fort Chipewyan until conclusive results were available.
The high run off caused by record-breaking rainfalls coupled with record-breaking temperatures created a situation never seen before in the region. Although it may be ‘natural’ we have to consider why we are seeing more ‘natural disasters.’ It has become hard to ignore that the flooding and record temperatures seen here in the Athabasca, in southern Alberta and globally is an indication that things are changing and climate change is becoming a reality.
Our people, Indigenous peoples and land based peoples, are the first to recognize and feel the impacts of climate change, and the incident on the river is perfect example. Now more then ever is it time that governments begin the process to work with our nations to adequately protect, monitor and mitigate negative and adverse impacts on eco-systems that are vital not only to indigenous peoples, but to our planet as a whole.
Our communities have been working to create stronger partnerships with government for full integration of a co-management plan in the region with little to no success. The government is spending millions of dollars on a world class monitoring system that has failed to integrate First Nations communities into its planning and implementation. We hope that our rapid response to the incident on the river is an indication that we are more then capable partners as stewards and caretakers of the region and valuable assets in being first responders and monitors in the region.”
For More information please contact:
Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communication Coordinator 780-903-6598