The Alberta government says it has identified a “serious risk” of coal ash pollution in parts of its mine-affected areas, but hasn’t set a deadline for remediation work.
The province announced in April that the Mount Royal Mine near Fort McMurray would begin a phase-out of coal-fired power.
But last week, the province announced a plan to replace a massive, three-mile-long, 3.5-million-tonne tailings dam on the Fort McMure River with a smaller, 100-kilometre-long one.
The dam is expected to last until 2020.
Environmental groups have questioned whether the dam will be a long-term solution for the Fort McArthur and surrounding area.
The government says that the larger, taller dam is the only one currently in place to deal with the pollution.
However, environmental groups and industry groups have been saying for years that there needs to be a more permanent solution for Fort McMurry.
The Alberta Environment Ministry said that the Fort McKay dam is a “highly effective” solution to addressing coal ash.
But industry groups say the dam is not needed, because the Alberta government has failed to take steps to stop the pollution in the area.
“The Fort McKay and Fort McLeod dam are both very effective in reducing coal ash contamination, but there is a clear gap in the existing regulatory framework to provide a solution for coal ash and other pollutants that flow from the coal-burning plant,” the Alberta Energy Regulator said in a statement.
“These regulatory gaps are the result of a lack of leadership from the government and a lack the leadership of industry and stakeholders.”