Alberta Energy Regulator charges Syncrude in deaths of 31 great blue herons

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The Alberta Energy Regulator has charged Syncrude Canada in the deaths of 31 great blue herons discovered at a sump at the Mildred Lake mine north of Fort McMurray two years ago.

"Syncrude knows the public expects us to provide energy in a responsible way", Syncrude spokesperson Will Gibson said in a Thursday interview.

The incident was reported to the AER on August 7, 2015. "The others were outside of that area so it's unclear what the cause of death was".

The company is charged with failing to store a hazardous substance to ensure it does not come into contact or contaminate animals, according to a news release from the regulator. "There was some bitumen there which impacted the one bird that they found this week and euthanized".

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It was fined $3 million after more than 1,600 ducks died when they landed on a toxic Syncrude tailings pond in northern Alberta in 2008. In the last two years that plan had been updated to include inactive pumphouse sites like the one the herons died in during August 2015, Gibson said.

Syncrude, which faces a penalty of up to $500,000 if convicted, has a court appearance scheduled for September 27 in Fort McMurray, Alta.

"We must review the charges in detail before we decide how we will proceed", he said.

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