To Members of the Fort McKay First Nation
The Fort McKay Chief and Council would like to provide notice of an announcement scheduled for Wednesday, September 21, 2016 at 11am.
In response to odour and air quality concerns raised by the Fort McKay First Nation, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and Alberta Health launched an investigation on the repeated complaints about air quality and odours in Fort McKay, under AER’s recurrent human health complaint process.
Fort McKay has for many years, experienced significant odours in the community, sometimes they are almost a daily occurrence. Some of these odour events have been so strong that community members were concerned about the impacts to their health and family members. Although the Sustainability Department (SD) and community members have been reporting the odours, it has seemed like nothing was changing with industry or with the government. Industry regularly reported that operations were normal even when there were strong odours, and the government usually said that air quality was meeting allowable levels.
Background and Investigation
In response to odour and air quality concerns raised by the Fort McKay, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) in May of 2015 launched a study to examine the connection to oil sands operations. The AER confirmed that 172 complaints related to odour had been made by community members between 2010-2014. The AER identified potential health concerns with air quality and odours and asked Alberta Health to join the investigation. Fort McKay and Industry both supported and participated in the study. The investigation and the final report took over a year to complete. Chief and Council met with representatives from AER and Alberta Health twice during this time for updates. The Sustainability Department also completed a technical review of the report and its recommendations and supports the AER’s findings and recommendations.
Investigation Report Findings and Recommendations
The report recognizes that the community has experienced real impacts due to odour and poor air quality events. The report’s findings identify a number of actions that are needed to address Fort McKay’s concerns and to improve air quality in the community. There are 17 recommendations that cover a range of air related health, monitoring, policy and emission management issues. Important recommendations include:
- Better management of industry air pollution (which the report confirms is the major contributor to the odours and poor air quality in Fort McKay);
- Obtaining better information about how odour complaints are responded to;
- Obtaining better information on the cause of poor air quality events;
- Expanding air quality and odours policy and guidelines;
- A better system to notify community members when an emergency occurs, especially when there are unusual emission from industry related to when an emissions event occur; and
- Because it is hard to identify the source of odours and poor air quality (such as which company is the emission from), the current system of air monitoring needs to be reviewed.
A Task Force consisting of AER, Alberta Health, Fort McKay and additional government agencies and industry will be established. The Task Force is responsible for ensuring that the report’s recommendations are acted upon. Improving air quality and reducing odours in the community will take time as there are no short term solutions. It is estimated that the implementation of all the report’s recommendations will take several years. The overall goal is to improve air quality in Fort McKay and air quality management in the region. This could involve implementing industry best practices, additional industrial emissions management requirements and changes in air quality monitoring, assessment and policy. Meeting new requirements for emission monitoring and air pollution control will take companies time to change. The SD will continue to work with the AER and Alberta Health to ensure that progress is made towards improving air quality and odour issues within the community. Once the Task Force is established, a focus group of community members will be set up to work with the Task Force. If you are interested in participating, please contact the SD at 780-828-2480.
What Does This Mean for Fort McKay?
Poor air quality and odour events in the community will not disappear overnight. We need to build a strong record of all air and odour events to better understand when and how certain emission sources are affecting the community’s air quality and to track improvements in air quality and odours. Your help is important. Please call 1-800-222-6514 to report an odour even if it is multiple times a day. These reports make a difference.
Listen Live on Wednesday September 21 at 11:00am to the Fort McKay First Nation Radio Station 106.3 FM, for full coverage of a joint press release that will talk about the Recurrent Human Health Complaint Process Report. Representatives from Chief and Council, the AER, Alberta Health and CAPP will discuss the investigation report and its significance.
Listen Live at Wednesday September 21 at 1:00pm to the local radio station again for a panel interview with representatives from Fort McKay, the AER, and Alberta Health.