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Water Science and Technology

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    This database contains detailed information on various sorbents (materials used to absorb chemicals) with a particular emphasis on the compunds abilities to absorb oil from tanker spills.

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    The Emergencies Science Division of ESTC provides Spills Technology Databases including Brochures, Oil Properties, Chemical Synonyms, PPA Instruments and Tanker Spills. This database contains information on the properties of various types of oils, a chemical thesaurus where one can look up synonymous chemical names, and information on over 700 tanker spills

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    Wild fish community data (species, abundance, diversity, length, weight) for 2013 and 2019 are now available for tributaries of the Athabasca River (rivers Steepbank, Ells, Firebag, High Hills, Dunkirk, Horse, Muskeg, Tar and Calumet) and 2017 data for rivers and creeks adjacent to Christina Lake (Christina River, Sunday Creek, Birch Creek, Sawbones Creek, Jackfish Creek and Unnamed Creek). The composition and diversity of the fish communities in these waterbodies have been evaluated over time to identify changes in the presence and abundance of fish species in these waterbodies adjacent to SAGD oil sands mining activity and at sites that are outside of the Athabasca Oil Sands deposit and not influenced by mining activities. Not all waterbodies are adjacent to mining activities and these provide some information as to the natural variability and stability of these fish communities over time. This involved establishing baseline conditions in fish communities in the fall of 2013, 2017 and 2019. This baseline data has assisted in tracking changes in fish communities of these waterbodies over time. Fish community assessments (non-lethal sampling) were carried out in a reach of river using a Smith-Root 12B backpack, Smith-Root LR-24 backpack and or seine at the sites identified in Section 2.3. Length, weight, species identification, and external assessment were performed on fish collected. Fish were then returned to the water at the site of capture. This fish community assessment work commenced September 17th to 27th, 2013, October 3rd to 8th, 2017 and September 24th to October 2nd, 2019. This monitoring activity compliments and supports the Wild Fish Health program.

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    Wild fish health data (length, weight, gonad size, etc.) are now available for trout perch collected from the Athabasca and Peace Rivers; white sucker collected from the Athabasca River; longnose sucker collected from the Peace River; slimy sculpin collected from the Steepbank River; lake chub from Alice Creek, the Ells and Dover Rivers; and longnose dace from the Mackay River. Contaminants data available for walleye collected from the Athabasca and Peace Rivers. For each of these data sets, upstream reference areas are provided for comparison to downstream developed sites. Reference data are currently being evaluated for variability between years to develop triggers, and these triggers are essential to eventually quantify potential effects at exposed sites. Using existing critical effect sizes developed in the Environmental Effects Monitoring programs for pulp and paper and metal mining effluents, condition endpoints in white sucker were increased within the deposit. Slimy sculpin condition and reproductive endpoints are also exceeding effect sizes downstream of development sites. This data is now being used to predict future fish health endpoints within sites, between sites and relative to reference variability to help assess change in fish health.

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    Sediment from Lakes Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), 47 elements including numerous metals, and visible reflectance spectroscopy or VRS-chla have been determined in sediment core samples collected in 2012, 2013 and 2014 from 16 small (surface area 4-97 ha; maximum depth ~1-5 m deep), hydrologically simple lakes located 30 to 120 km from major oil sands development areas. Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) guidelines are available for 13 of the 53 PAHs reported here. Sediment concentrations did not exceed Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) probable effects levels (PELs), which define the level above which biological adverse effects are expected to occur, for PAHs in any lake. Exceedances of the CCME interim sediment quality guidelines (ISQG) for the protection of aquatic life occurred for 4 PAHs (naphthalene, 2-methyl naphthalene phenanthrene, and benzo(a)pyrene) in 8 lakes. CCME sediment quality guidelines are available for 7 of the 47 elements reported here. Exceedances of the CCME ISQG for metals were found for arsenic in 3 lakes, cadmium in 8 lakes, mercury in 3 lakes and zinc in 9 lakes. Exceedances of the CCME PELs for metals occurred in 2 lakes for arsenic and 1 lake for zinc. Further assessment of the data is ongoing to examine reasons for exceedances as well as spatial and temporal trends of the PACs and elements. Analyses of lake primary productivity, using visible reflectance spectroscopy or VRS-chla as a proxy, show consistently greater productivity (i.e. VRS-chla concentrations) in the top sediment core slices relative to the bottom, regardless of lake morphological and limnological characteristics and landscape position. Potential drivers of these changes are being examined.

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    Acid-Sensitive Lakes Nine hundred and thirty-three lakes located in Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Northwest Territories were sampled to establish current acidification status. Of the 933 lakes, 244 (or 26%) are considered acid sensitive, almost always because of naturally low calcium and magnesium (or "base cation") concentrations. The most acid-sensitive lakes (i.e., those with extremely low base cation concentrations) are located on the Canadian Shield in both Alberta and Saskatchewan and east of the oils sands development area. Fifty-one of the 244 acid-sensitive lakes were sampled twice annually (spring and fall) to identify chemical changes through trend analyses. Results revealed that 55% of these lakes had concentrations of some metals in excess of Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment guidelines. Of the 291 samples taken in the 51 lakes, iron concentrations were greater than guidelines in 36% (105 samples), aluminum in 33% (97 samples), lead in 0.3% (1 sample) and copper in 0.3% (1 sample). The metals in these lakes occur naturally and are expected to be found in a wide range of concentrations given the geology and physiography of the Canadian Shield. It remains to establish the relationship between acid sensitivity, geology and high metal concentrations.

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    Fish Status and Ecosystem Health - Caged Invertebrates In situ exposures of Hyalella azteca in Athabasca River tributaries - Summary of activities (2010, 2012, 2013, 2014) In situ exposures with Hyalella azteca were conducted within the oil sands region to assess differences in survival and growth of invertebrates caged at natural sites (i.e., exposed to naturally occurring sources of bitumen) compared to sites influenced by oil sands mining activity (i.e., exposed to both naturally occurring and anthropogenic sources of bitumen).Hyalella were collected from a wetland within the Athabasca River watershed but outside the area of oil sands development and activity. They were then placed in cages submerged at 3 sites on the Ells River, 3 sites on the Firebag River, and 4 sites on the Steepbank River. Five cages were deployed per site, each cage containing 20 Hyalella. Cages were removed two weeks after deployment, and Hyalella were counted and weighed as a group to determine growth. The data show no differences in survival or growth of Hyalella caged in situ at any of the 10 sites, when comparing natural sites to sites influenced by oil sands mining activity within each river (i.e., upstream to downstream sites) or between rivers. Caged Mussels Mature mussels (Pyganodon grandis) were collected from a site outside the oil development area (Clearwater River and Long Lake, Alberta) and placed into cages at various sites in the Athabasca River and tributaries for 4 to 6 weeks during the months of August, September and October 2012, 2013 and 2014. The data revealed that mussel growth and survival rates were not affected. Mussels exposed to river water for 4 to 6 weeks were less likely to survive when kept outside of the water for long periods of time (days). Further investigations are warranted to confirm these observations.

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    The Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) is an aquatic biomonitoring program for assessing the health of fresh water ecosystems in Canada. Benthic macroinvertebrates are collected at a site location and their counts are used as an indicator of the health of that water body. CABIN is based on the network of networks approach that promotes inter-agency collaboration and data-sharing to achieve consistent and comparable reporting on fresh water quality and aquatic ecosystem conditions in Canada. The program is maintained by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) to support the collection, assessment, reporting and distribution of biological monitoring information. A set of nationally standardized CABIN protocols are used for field collection, laboratory work, and analysis of biological monitoring data. A training program is available to certify participants in the standard protocols. There are two types of sites in the CABIN database (reference and test). Reference sites represent habitats that are closest to “natural” before any human impact. The data from reference sites are used to create reference models that CABIN partners use to evaluate their test sites in an approach known as the Reference Condition Approach (RCA). Using the RCA models, CABIN partners match their test sites to groups of reference sites on similar habitats and compare the observed macroinvertebrate communities. The extent of the differences between the test site communities and the reference site communities allows CABIN partners to estimate the severity of the impacts at those locations. CABIN samples have been collected since 1987 and are organized in the database by study (partner project). The data is delineated by the 11 major drainage areas (MDA) found in Canada and each one has a corresponding study, habitat and benthic invertebrate data file. Links to auxiliary water quality data are provided when available. Visits may be conducted at the same location over time with repeat site visits being identified by identical study name / site code with different dates. All data collected by the federal government is available on Open Data and more partners are adding their data continually. The csv files are updated monthly. Contact the CABIN study authority to request permission to access non open data.

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    As part of a three year study funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada and Natural Resources Canada (ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative, project UOSGQ963; http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/funding/current-fundingprograms/eii/4985) data were gathered to assess and monitor water quality conditions in northeastern British Columbia (BC). Defined in this datasetas portions of the Petitot, Fort Nelson, and Hay River basins, northeast BC is a region subject to both historical conventional oil and gas development and more recent unconventional oil and gas (UOG) development. UOG development in this area is presently focused on the Horn River Basin, Cordova Embayment and Liard Basin shale formations (BCOGC 2010, 2013a). Otherwise, UOG development in BC is centered in the Montney Play, located further south (Adams et al. 2016). Surface water quality assessment and monitoring focused on two river basins in this area: the Petitot River Basin and the Fort Nelson River Basin. Baseline and/or best available surface water quality information was gathered from January 2012 to March 2015. Benthic macroinvertebrates were collected over the same period to complement the water quality study through development of a Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) bioassessment model. Routine Water Quality Monitoring study objectives were to gain a better understanding of water quality conditions in the Petitot River Basin by collecting baseline data using a standard suite of physical-chemical variables and establishing a representative long-term site. Routine water quality sampling sites were selected at locations with known exposure to UOG activity and varying watershed areas; submersible loggers were also installed to collect specific conductance and temperature data. Synoptic Water Quality Monitoring study objectives were to establish patterns of spatial and temporal water chemistry through synoptic water sampling at high and low flow periods and examine potential relationships between UOG activity and surface water quality. Sample sites were selected at microbasin drainage outlets to represent a range of upstream activity and potential contamination. A series of samples were also collected along the mainstem Petitot River at 20-kilometre intervals from the Alberta border to the Highway 77 bridge to capture potential “step-changes” in water chemistry as the river flows through the northeast BC gas production area. Biological Monitoring study objectives were to establish baseline reference conditions based on benthic macroinvertebrate communities and habitat characteristics, and develop a predictive bioassessment model to assess the ecosystem health of streams in the Liard, Fort Nelson, and Petitot River basins exposed to UOG activity. The biological monitoring study design followed CABIN sampling methodology for benthic macroinvertebrate collections in streams and rivers (Environment Canada 2012, http://www.ec.gc.ca/rcba-cabin). Sampling was conducted at 53 reference sites unaffected or minimally influenced by human activity. Thirty five test sites were also selected across a gradient of UOG activity, based on well densities. A preliminary predictive bioassessment model for northeast BC was established and is available through the CABIN website for future assessment of water quality and ecosystem health in the region.

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    The objectives of the fish component of the integrated oil sands monitoring program are to provide the necessary data/information to address key questions related to both environmental health of fish populations and fish health issues that can be used to inform human use and consumption. The questions underlying the fish monitoring design are related to the status and health of wild fish populations in the Lower Athabasca River including and in an expanded geographical extent. Data is being collected to provide a baseline against which future changes in fish populations will be evaluated, and compared to data from historical studies to assess change over time to the current state. Data is also being collected in areas of new oil sands development, to develop baseline data for future site-specific comparisons, contribute to an expanded geographic basis of the overall monitoring plan, and contribute to an improved ability to examine cumulative effects.