UPDATE 3-Water escapes Suncor oil sands pond into Athabasca River

Tue Mar 26, 2013 8:35pm EDT
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* Volume and toxicity of water not yet known

* Company has not been asked to shut down operations

By Scott Haggett

CALGARY, Alberta, March 26 (Reuters) - Contaminated water may have spilled into the Athabasca River from a broken pipe at Suncor Energy Inc's oil sands project in northern Alberta, sparking new fears about pollution of the river from the huge oil sands developments on its banks.

The Athabasca is the main source of drinking water for aboriginal and other communities downstream and has been the subject of several controversial reports on its water quality.

The province of Alberta's environment department said it does not yet know whether the water that spilled from a holding pond contained toxic materials.

Samples from the pond are being sent for analysis and it will take at least a day before results are returned. Environment department staff have been at the project site north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, since early on Monday.

Suncor said it does not anticipate any impact to the Athabasca River.

"We are analyzing samples of the pond and the river as part of the investigation," said Suncor spokeswoman Sneh Seetal.   Continued...