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1,606 Ducks Died Landing On Toxic Waste Pond

03/31/09 09:51 PM ET   AP

Duck

EDMONTON, Alberta — Eleven hundred more ducks died after landing on a toxic waste pond in northern Alberta last year than was originally estimated, a Canadian oil sands official acknowledged Tuesday.

The carcasses of 1,606 ducks were collected from the oily waters, compared to the 500 originally counted, Syncrude Canada chief executive Tom Katinas said.

The deaths of the mallards last April drew widespread attention and prompted Prime Minister Stephen Harper to lament that Canada's international reputation had been tarnished by it.

Syncrude was accused of failing to prevent the birds from landing near the toxic waters and faces a maximum $634,000 fine.

Canadian law requires that all such ponds have the noisemaking devices to scare the birds and prevent them from landing. The company has said a spring snowstorm delayed the deployment of noisemaking cannons.

Katinas released the updated figure after an Alberta court granted Syncrude more time to enter a plea. He apologized for the incident but did not explain why Syncrude is only now acknowledging the larger number.

Oil sands form an important Canadian industry but the process of separating out the oil has been criticized by environmentalists as highly polluting.

The pond contained waste from the separation process. Dozens of toxic tailings ponds have been building up over 40 years in northern Alberta. A plan announced earlier this year aims to force companies to clean up the sludge over several decades.

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Filed by Dave Burdick  |