Development of Remedial Action Objectives for McKay River Watershed Impacted by Open Mines and Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainages

Since the 1960s, the lands of several indigenous communities such as the Fort McKay Métis have been largely impacted by open mines and steam assisted gravity drainages (SAGDs). Such oil sands operations have disturbed large areas, changed geology, hydrogeology, hydrology, aquatic and terrestrial environment, and created a linear disturbance. This research project will map and analyze the contaminants of particular concern within the McKay river watershed which will be used to develop remedial action objectives (RAOs). Specifically, this project will develop a consistent approach to interpret baseline aquatic environment data collected using indigenous knowledge (IK) and contemporary western environmental science. Besides, areas of greatest risk will be identified through robust watershed models combined by chemical simulation modules. Finally, a decision support system will be developed to help the community develop feasible RAOs. These RAOs will: a) protect human health and the environment from contaminants that may cause significant risk.; b) comply with applicable, relevant, and appropriate regulations; c) be cost-effective; and d) consider a long-term remedy whenever practical while being consistent with planned future land use. The research derived from this project will assist Fort McKay Métis community to adopt sustainable development strategies while strengthening vulnerable areas and increasing resiliency.

Haitham Elnakar
Faculty Supervisor: 
Gopal Achari
Partner University: