Environment File

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Ten years and $30 million later, and St. Albert has finally ended the environmental threat of the old Riel landfill to the Sturgeon River.

City strategic services and environment director Leah Kongsrude gave a final report to St. Albert council last week about the Riel Park remediation project.

The $30-million project was meant to keep hazardous substances from leaching out of the old Riel landfill underneath the Riel soccer and rugby fields into the Sturgeon.

“It’s been a long journey – 10 years, 2005 to 2015,” Kongsrude told council.

In 2004, environmentalist Elke Blodgett spotted a rusty, brown fluid that appeared to be leaking out of the old dump and into the river, triggering an investigation by Alberta Environment and Environment Canada. Tests of the fluid suggested that it could be harmful to fish. The federal government issued a directive ordering the city to stop any fluids from leaking out of the dump into the Sturgeon River.

That led to a plan to cap the landfill with about 300,000 cubic metres of clay, Kongsrude said – enough to fill the competitive pool at Fountain Park 400 times. The capping and later restoration of the sports fields took $30 million and eight years to complete, about $13 million of which went toward the capping.

Kongsrude said Environment Canada sent the city a letter last April saying that the city had fulfilled its obligations under the directive and did not have to take any further action in this matter. The city will still have to monitor the landfill for about 25 years to ensure that no contaminants are getting out.

Kongsrude said in an interview that the city had greatly improved its knowledge of environmental risks because of this incident.

“We’re much more proactive now.”

Big Lake Environment Support Society member Miles Constable said he wasn’t sure if the city had learned any lessons from this incident, but said that council now seemed more willing to pay attention to the environment and the rules.

“Those landfills they had were totally unlicensed,” he said, uncontrolled, and way too close to the river – the city had to deal with them.

“You have to do things properly or else you’re going to mess up your own locale.”

About half of Albertans support stronger climate change policies in this province even if it would lead to higher costs to oilsands companies, suggests a recent study.

The Pembina Institute published a survey this week that asked some 1,855 Albertans their opinions on climate change and environmental policy.

The environmental think-tank hired EKOS Research to do the poll to gauge public attitudes as the province works on its new climate change policy, said Pembina spokesperson Simon Dyer.

The survey found that about 53 per cent of Albertans supported stronger action by the province on climate change even it meant higher costs for the oilsands industry. About 34 per cent did not support action in that circumstance.

It also found that about 50 per cent of Albertans supported paying a carbon tax that applied to all polluters, individual and corporate (38 per cent opposed). That rose to 76 per cent if the money collected by this tax was used to reduce emissions from the oil and gas sector.

“When you’re getting numbers like three-fourths of Albertans supporting the idea of Alberta having a carbon tax, I think that’s very powerful,” Dyer said.

The survey found that some 86 per cent of Albertans wanted the province to do more to support the development of a clean energy and clean technology industry in Alberta. Some 70 per cent supported investment in renewable power to reduce Alberta’s use of coal power.

The survey is considered accurate to within 2.3 percentage points 19 times out of 20, and is available at pembina.org.

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