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Waste-water leak did not affect fish in Athabasca River: Suncor

The Suncor oil sands operation, near Fort McMurray, Alta., which was the site of a waste-water leak

Brett Gundlock/ Boreal Collectiv/The Globe and Mail

Suncor Energy Inc. says its tests show an industrial water release at an oil sands site last week didn't have any effect on aquatic life in the Athabasca River.

On Tuesday, the oil giant also provided more details about the content of the industrial waste-water released into the river, saying it included trace amounts of oil and grease, total suspended solids and ammonia. In a statement, the company also said water tests upstream and at multiple points downstream – including at Fort MacKay and at Fort Chipewyan – indicate a "negligible impact" on the river.

By putting captive fish in samples of the industrial water – and watching whether they survived after 24, 48, 72 and 96 hours – Suncor said it has determined fish and other animals living in the water won't be affected by the discharge.

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But Suncor spokeswoman Sneh Seetal said testing on the river north of Fort McMurray will continue.

On March 25, a pipe leak at the Suncor oil sands base plant site led to an estimated 350,000 litres (or 350 cubic metres) of industrial waste-water getting into the Athabasca River over a 10-hour period.

With environmental groups and local First Nations clamouring for information about the makeup of the release, the company last week revealed "the process-affected water was a combination of water with suspended solids (clays and fine particulates) and inorganic and organic compounds," but it did not contain bitumen.

Alberta's department of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development said the results of government water tests from the river should be available to the public later this week.

The Fort McKay First Nation located just downstream from the Suncor site has ordered its own tests and is still determining what to do next.

"Regardless of what was in the effluent, we're still concerned the incident occurred," Dayle Hyde, communications director for the First Nation, said on Tuesday.

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