Oil and gas remnants killing caribou: First Nations
Published Friday, November 12, 2010 5:54PM PST
First Nations in B.C.'s north are worried that contamination from 1,400 abandoned oil and gas sites is killing large game, and they say promises of remediation have not been fulfilled.
Residents of the Treaty 8 lands near Fort St. John say that contamination from the abandoned sites is poisoning bison, moose, deer and caribou, animals whose populations are in decline.
"It seems like we're the only ones addressing the issue, and nobody is listening," Doig River hunter Kelvin Davis said.
At the West Peejay site, the dirt is so saturated with oil that holding a lighter to it will set it aflame. A burst pipeline caused a major spill there eight years ago, and seven more have followed -- including one this year.
On many of the contaminated sites in Doig River First Nations land, strands of fur are stuck in the dirty earth.
"They've been kneeling down here," Davis said, pointing to a patch indented with hoof marks. "They've been licking and eating contaminated soil."
He says he's found evidence of caribou meat riddled with toxins.
"The hide and the meat was green. And it looked so awful that we just threw it away," he said.
First Nations say the Calgary company responsible for the spills, Canadian Natural Resources, has done little to remediate the contamination.
The company refused to be interviewed, but said in a statement about the West Peejay spill: "We have achieved significant progress to our approved plan of remediating the site."
Mike McFarlane of the B.C. environment ministry's land remediation section said the government is monitoring the remediation efforts.
"They're basically looking to complete the work in 2012. Through that, there will be stage investigations; we'll rely on those investigations to see if there is fine tuning required," he said.
But NDP environment critic Rob Fleming says the problems caused by the oil industry need more than fine tuning.
"We're not even able to deal with what has happened in the past couple of decades with contamination and other impacts on the environment. You've got to ask yourself, how sustainable is this?" he said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Peter Grainger
For more, watch "First Story" on CTV at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 14