An investigation of ambient air quality was undertaken at three communities within the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR) of Alberta, Canada (Fort McKay, Fort McMurray, and Fort Chipewyan). Daily and seasonal patterns and 16- year trends were investigated for several criteria air pollutants over the period 1998 to 2013. A parametric trend detection method using percentiles from frequency distributions of 1 h concentrations for a pollutant during each year was used. Variables representing 50th, 65th, 80th, 90th, 95th and 98th percentile concentrations each year were identified from frequency distributions and used for trend analysis. Small increasing concentration trends were observed for NO2 (<1 ppb/y) at Fort McKay and Fort McMurray over the period consistent with increasing emissions of oxides of nitrogen (ca. 1,000 tonne/y) from industrial developments. Emissions from all oil sands facilities appear to be contributing to the trend at Fort McKay; whereas both emissions from within the community (vehicles and commercial) and oil sands facility emissions appear to be contributing to the trend at Fort McMurray. SO2 emissions from industrial developments in the AOSR were unchanged during the period (101,000±7,000 tonne/y; mean±standard deviation) and no meaningful trends were judged to be occurring at all community stations. No meaningful trends occurred for O3 and PM2.5 at all community stations and CO at one station in Fort McMurray. Air quality in Fort Chipewyan was much better and quite separate in terms of absence of factors influencing criteria air pollutant concentrations at the other community stations.
Dr. Warren Kindzierski is an associate professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, Edmonton. Prior to that, he was an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering for nine years and the Head of Chemical Risk Assessment for Alberta Health for three years. He has trained 43 graduate students and nine research associates and post- doctorates, mainly in air quality investigations and health risk assessment and is an author/co-author of over 100 refereed journal and conference papers.