Oil sands polluting Alberta river system: study

Oil sands operations are polluting the Athabasca River system, researchers said on Monday, contradicting the Alberta government's assertions that toxins in the watershed are naturally occurring.

In a study likely to add more fuel to the environmental battle over oil sands development, researchers said mercury, arsenic, lead and cadmium are among the toxins being released into the Athabasca, which flows north through the region's major oil sands operations.

The environmental impact of developing the oil sands, the biggest reserves of crude outside the Middle East, has been a topic of snowballing controversy in Canada and around the world. The Alberta government has devoted millions of dollars to defend the multibillion-dollar industry.

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For those who don't know, Canada is still, by far, the largest single oil supplier to the US.

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