Are treatment wetlands a feasible and effective option for the safe removal of oil sands related contaminants?
Bitumen extraction from the Canadian Oil Sands generates large quantities of hydrocarbon contaminated wastewater, or Oil Sands Process Water (OSPW). OSPW is stored in large tailings ponds and not permitted to be discharged to surface waters. Cost effective solutions for reclaiming OSPW are being explored but have not been realized to date. Among the potential solutions are treatment wetlands. Treatment wetlands are artificial, constructed wetlands that harness natural biogeochemistry to remove pollutants from wastewater. They have emerged as a feasible and effective treatment option for a wide range of applications, including domestic and municipal wastewater, mine water, agricultural runoff, and leachate.
Our research focusses on the application of treatment wetlands to remediate OSPW. Our hope is that treatment wetlands may offer an innovative and practical solution to remediate OSPW and mitigate risks from tailings ponds.
To explore the role of treatment wetlands for OSPW remediation, we investigate the capacity of the Kearl Treatment Wetland to reduce concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and O2-naphthenic acids (O2-NAs).