We received 172 air quality and odour complaints related to local oil sands operations from the Fort McKay community over a five-year period (2010–2014). In 2015, we began a year-long study with Alberta Health to review these complaints. The study also reviewed industry performance monitoring data and regulatory requirements, ambient air quality monitoring data, and air quality and odour thresholds.
What We Found
At the end of the joint study, our findings included the following:
- In most cases, oil sands facilities were operating under normal conditions and were following our requirements during the time of the complaints.
- A link exists between emissions from oil sands operations in the area and air quality and odours in Fort McKay.
- The air in Fort McKay sometimes contains emissions that exceed odour and health thresholds.
- Response protocols for air quality and odour complaints must be improved.
- More work is needed to better understand the connection between emissions and oil sands operations and how exposure to emissions that exceed thresholds may impact human health.
Based on these findings, 17 recommendations were developed to help improve air quality and reduce odours. These recommendations are presented in the 2016 report Fort McKay Recurrent Human Health Complaints Technical Synthesis and are focused on the following:
- aligning emergency response to air quality exceedances
- improving response protocols for odour complaints
- identifying, assessing, and managing emissions from oil sands operations
- monitoring air quality
- conducting a human health assessment based on ambient air quality data
Our work to assess air quality and odour complaints from the Fort McKay community and to develop recommendations to improve air quality and reduce odours is a first step in the process to resolve these concerns. We have significant work ahead of us as we implement these recommendations. However, all parties involved remain committed to working together to make the necessary changes to resolve air quality and odour concerns in Fort McKay.