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Oil sands producers are talking with the federal and Alberta governments about conditions under which water from the industry’s tailings ponds could be released into the environment.
Officials say releases would only involve treated water and wouldn’t happen until the end of a mine’s life.
Environmentalists are watching the discussions closely and warn that quality standards for released tailings water should be high.
“If they’d be willing to take the water and dump it in the Bow River near Calgary, then perhaps,” said Keith Stewart of Greenpeace.
Alberta has a zero discharge policy for the oilsands. No water affected by processing is allowed back into the Athabasca River and even rain that falls on developed sites must be collected and stored.