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Oil field fumes so painful, Alberta families forced to move

Severe headaches, dizziness, rashes and loss of memory: all symptoms reported to a new hearing examining health effects of Alberta's rapidly expanding heavy oil industry

Alain Labrecque says his family has suffered from nearby oil field emisssions
Photos submitted by A. Labrecque

Northwest Alberta grain farmer Alain Labrecque recalls the first winter in 2011 when the fumes from oil tanks near his home in the Peace River area seemed to trigger terrible health effects for himself, his wife and two small children.

"I started getting massive headaches.  My eyes twitched.  I got dizzy spells.  I often felt like I was going to pass out."  

“Next thing I knew, my [3-year-old] girl had trouble walking.  She had no balance.  She would sit at the table, and she would just fall off her chair." 

"My [4-year-old] son - he was really black under his eyes all the time, and had big time constipation.”

“Then my wife fell down the stairs while carrying a laundry basket."

“We went through a weird winter like that," Labrecque told the Vancouver Observer by phone Sunday.

Labrecque, his family, and neighbours are part of a group of rural home owners now giving testimony to an unprecedented Alberta hearing, examining the health effects of the odour and emissions from bitumen extraction.  About 75 people packed the conference centre, each day of the first week of proceedings.

Homes abandoned due to oil fumes

At least six families have abandoned their homes, citing health concerns from heavy oil emissions from the Reno field, about 500 km northwest of Edmonton.  

The hearing is also examining odour and emission concerns for the rapidly growing heavy oil industry in the wider Peace River area, which includes operators Shell Oil, Penn West, Murphy Oil, and Husky Oil.  

The Reno operation consists of 86 bitumen oil storage tanks, run by Calgary-based Baytex Energy.  

On Friday, Alain, his wife Karla, and Alain's uncle gave emotional testimony to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) forum on how this field has torn their lives apart. The AER is an industry-funded oversight agency.  

A pad of four heavy oil tanks is just 500 metres from Labrecque's home. Another 16 tanks are another 1,000 metres further.  

The tanks release a toxic, flammable and aromatic vapour that includes volatile organic compounds, benzene, toulene and sulfur, an engineer testified.  

The hearing revealed that Baytex did not initially install vapour recovery systems.  

"In 2010, the facility and tank design in use at 4 Baytex sites did not capture emissions from tank tops," Baytex's Alberta and BC business unit VP Rick Ramsay admitted in his testimony. 

Kids waking up soaked in chemicals

Labrecque says his small children Alec and Candace would often wake up soaked, trying to "sweat the chemicals" out, resulting in rashes and burns.

Fed up and terrified, he eventually moved his family to Smithers, B.C., even though he was enjoying his best income ever as a farmer in Alberta.

"I grossed a million dollars. But I just couldn’t stay there,” said Labrecque.

He prays his children have not suffered long term, but says many in his family continue to suffer memory loss, reduced sense of smell, and extreme chemical sensitivities.

“We’ve all become so sensitive now.  My uncle can’t even fuel his truck.  Any emissions give him a headache right away."

"[My wife] can’t go into a pool with chlorine.  If she does, it will trigger a huge headache, and won’t be able to function for a day.  Windshield fluid is the same thing.  She can’t use it." 

“Then recently, we tried snowmobiling.  She tried it for five minutes, and she was bed-ridden until the next day," said Labrecque.

Baytex bitumen oil tank near Alain Labrecque's home - Jan 26 2014 v2

Expert toxicology testimony given at the hearing suggested sulphur from the tanks may be the main health concern.  

An industry expert disputed this, suggesting the problem has to do with the terrible odour alone, and the effects are not as bad as reported by families. 

A Baytex-commissioned air study showed that concentrations of the chemicals of concern found down wind from the tanks were below guidelines. 

Following complaints, Baytex executives said they took proactive measures to control the emissions, and the company is "committed to operating in a safe, environmentally responsible manner."

The Alberta hearing continues this week until Friday.

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Moderation or Choke

 

In a nut shell, cells of earths aura absorb at their cell nucleus the nuclei or spirit (aura) of encountered cells. These are on their way to other worlds to evolve. Reaction cause some to stop along the way producing what has been named atmosphere, water, weather etc. This of course includes the absorption of carbon, some returning to earth in the nucleus of a water cell. Trees and plants do not collect carbon from the atmosphere but by their roots (experiment 208).

 

In more recent times unnatural reaction is taking place at high altitude and volatile organic compounds that normally leave to space are being found in chemtrails returning to earth.

Bruce, are you joking?

Bruce Voigt wrote:

 

In a nut shell, cells of earths aura absorb at their cell nucleus the nuclei or spirit (aura) of encountered cells. These are on their way to other worlds to evolve. Reaction cause some to stop along the way producing what has been named atmosphere, water, weather etc. This of course includes the absorption of carbon, some returning to earth in the nucleus of a water cell. Trees and plants do not collect carbon from the atmosphere but by their roots (experiment 208).

 

In more recent times unnatural reaction is taking place at high altitude and volatile organic compounds that normally leave to space are being found in chemtrails returning to earth.

If you aren't joking Bruce, then you might want to try to get some help as nothing you said makes any sense.

BTW, plants (including trees which are in the same category) get the carbon needed to live and grow from the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide, not from the ground.

Really

OK Ok, lets call Bull-shit Bull-shit we know, the provinces' know and Canada knows and industry has always known that this development would have consequences and that it was only a mater of time before the issue affects and/or effects non-First Nation people.

The signs were there a long time ago and now developing into a serious health and environmental issue for local Alberta, and British Columbians. Serious because we are at home, we will not be catching a plane to other parts of Canada or USA, Australia, Europe, etc.

The companies you work for do not even buy much at local stores except maybe alcohol and support the drug dealers and other bad things then go home and say to family ..... "if any of those bastards come (to my town) I'll fix them; best it will never happen".

I left Alberta too

My case was not as sudden and extreme as this poor familiy, but I left Alberta because of the toxins.... and yes, life is better in B.C.'s Kootenays. I became sensitized to the oilfield chemicals when working sub-contract around sour gas sites. Now even vehicle exhaust bothers me.

  This is great news to hear about an investigation/hearing into the claims of hydrocarbon illnesses.... though I have doubts if it will change anything in Alberta.

  Fossil fuels are DEATH!! Black, anerobic, toxic DEATH. They should be left underground - it served it's purpose but it should have ended by now... the reason it has not ended is that oil made a few people very wealthy and therefor powerful, and they are the ones calling the shots now. Oil corrupted democracy!!

  We cannot live by oil and coal and gas - we can only die by it.... and where is my affordable electric car?? Hey, and where is my affordable eloectric car?

 

 

electric car

Edwin Headwind wrote:

My case was not as sudden and extreme as this poor familiy, but I left Alberta because of the toxins.... and yes, life is better in B.C.'s Kootenays. I became sensitized to the oilfield chemicals when working sub-contract around sour gas sites. Now even vehicle exhaust bothers me.

  This is great news to hear about an investigation/hearing into the claims of hydrocarbon illnesses.... though I have doubts if it will change anything in Alberta.

  Fossil fuels are DEATH!! Black, anerobic, toxic DEATH. They should be left underground - it served it's purpose but it should have ended by now... the reason it has not ended is that oil made a few people very wealthy and therefor powerful, and they are the ones calling the shots now. Oil corrupted democracy!!

  We cannot live by oil and coal and gas - we can only die by it.... and where is my affordable electric car?? Hey, and where is my affordable eloectric car?

 

 

 

Your affordable electric car is nowhere in sight, since making a battery or fuel cell capable of running a car in the same drive range as a tank of gas doesn't exist, and is nowhere near existing, in a form either not the size of the entire car, of the price range of several cars. Plus, batteries work like shit in cold climates, so kiss off even more range running one up here. Until you pull a magical solution to the 'next' type of energy out of your rectum, we are stuck using oil.

Baytex has failed to provide industry standardsPERIOD

In regards to Baytex, keep up with the lies, it works in your favour to have populations not associated with extraction being harmed by your extraction process.

When I saw the families effected and understood that the poisons they are subjected to, would have been way less if you had made capturing the emissions.

The chemical soup is causing neurological damage.

Your rush to profit without safe standard practices is disgusting.
I wonder how your people in charge sleep at night. You are all aware of the hard the chemicals cause.

 

Too much of a good thing...

@Leigh:

Is your argument that because plants use CO2, that more of it in the air is a good thing?  Because that argument only makes sense if you are, literally, a vegetable.

 

I'm fauna, and I use oxygen.

To the petro-spammer calling himself (he's obviously too dumb to be a woman) "Electric Car", LiFePO4 batteries are being affordably mass-produced today that work great right down to -30C.  They also last ten times longer than  SLA dinosaur batteries in starting applications.

 

Anyone with a few free weekends, a garage and $10,000 can build an electric car that's every bit as fast and reliable as a 'guzzler.  Frankly, that describes most people who currently owns a car.

 

What really turns to shit in the winter is the logic circuit in the head of Ezra Levant arselickers, as evidenced by your uninformed rubbish comment.  Toodle loo.

oilfield odors

Having worked in the oil and gas industry, I would like to give my opinion on this issue. There are some potential solutions to this issue: "Blanket gas", or sweet gas (sulphur removed) added to the tanks, under regulated pressure, to keep the odors in the tanks. Plus, a vapor recovery unit, which is a small pump, which sends any vapors escaping from the fluid in the tanks to a flare, to be burned. If the fluid is produced with a saleable quantity of gas, the pump discharge can be routed to the facility inlet, and combined with the product, to be compressed, and sent down the pipeline.  

Unhealthy air

I lived in Dawson Creek for almost 3 decades. I knew there was a lot of particulates in the atmosphere as I saw them every clear day at sunrise. There was a purple/orange/grey haze on every horizon that was not natural. Any sunny day had a layer of haze overhead with the exception of immediately after a rain. The sky was never really a rich blue. I also had a nagging , perpetual cough. When I moved to the Terrace area, that cough disappeared after 2 weeks and has not returned. That speaks volumes in my books and I truly believe those toxins are reducing the quality of life as well as residents lifespans. Since I left, 6 years ago, I don't have enough fingers to count my friends who have died or contracted cancer.