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Contamination in Red Deer River causing fish gender bending

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    Contamination in the Red Deer River could be causing fish feminization according to a recent study done by researchers at the University of Calgary.
    The focus of the study, published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, was on two rivers in the South Saskatchewan River Basin: the Red Deer and Oldman rivers, located in southern Alberta.
    The study revealed a species of fish, the longnose dace minnow, has a 90 per cent female population in some downstream areas.
    Tests taken from river water suggest contamination from estrogen-like compounds could be affecting the fish gender.
    In 2006, samples taken from Tolman Bridge and Morrin Bridge revealed a high total concentration of natural and synthetic estrogens at both sites, with a high concentration of testostorone found at Tolman Bridge.
    Samples were also taken from Drumheller, however the results were not immediately available when The Mail contacted Hamid Habibi, co-author of the study.
    “In terms of general information, what we found essentially is distribution of these contaminants in that area so I wouldn’t be surprised if what we found in other places also occurs near Drumheller, because most of that area is agricultural land,” he said. In those type of areas, the river is exposed to contamination from feedlot and agricultural land such as pesticides and herbicides.
    While the source of contamination has not been determined, some of the contaminants found points to cattle," said Habibi.
    Zeranol, an anabolic steroid, was found during the study, and Habibi explained to The Mail that this contaminant comes from farms’ cattle because it is not used in human medicine and therefore is not likely to come from municipal sewage treatment plant, the other possible source of contamination.
    While the study points to these contaminants changing the gender of fish in the affected water, their effects on humans are as yet unknown.
     “One of the things we are doing right now is trying to do risk assessment for these chemicals to find out at what concentration would these chemicals be harmful. One of the things I find a little bit alarming is that the potency of these chemicals actually increases when we test the effect in a complex mixture. In other words, if we put them altogether, we see a more potent effect than testing them individually.”
    Habibi hopes the result of the study will send a message to other researchers to do further investigation in that area and also hopes it provides information to the public.
    “If people are concerned, which I am, I think they need to make sure they raise their concerns to the local representatives because in order for us to do more, we need help from the government. This is something the politicians find easy to forget, as the effect is not immediate. It may take years before the harmful effect becomes apparent.”
    Habibi said they are now working on another project for the City of Calgary to build a sewage treatment plant and work on a technology that can remove the contamination.
    “If that technology is developed in Calgary, it has implication for use in other places, including Drumheller and around the globe.”
    Habibi’s message is clear: this study gives people the opportunity to act now before it may be too late.
    “We can either sit back and deal with a disaster a few years from now, or we can be proactive. People can write to their MPs and MLAs and try to tell them they are concerned about these things and something needs to be done,” he concluded, adding that Alberta Environment should also be getting involved.
     Carrie Sancartier, spokesperson for Alberta Environment told The Mail that compounds showing up in water were a concern in Alberta but also around the world.
    She said Alberta Environment has been monitoring pharmaceuticals and other emergency contaminants in river water since 2005.

Major grow-op discovered

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A marijuana grow-op worth an estimated $4.8 million was discovered by RCMP officers at an acreage some 60 kms north-east of Drumheller, early Sunday morning, August 2.

Approximately 3800 plants were seized

The site is less than a kilometer north of the old Springwater School site on Range Road 19-0 and Township road 33-0, in Starland County.

“Despite its size, this grow operation was fairly low tech,” said Sgt. Jason Graham, a member of ALERT’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of Medicine Hat. 

“In Alberta, most grows are found indoors and supported by sophisticated lighting systems and stolen electricity and water. This one relied solely on the sun and a garden hose.”

Ten aluminum-framed greenhouses were adjacent to the residence on the property, hidden behind newly-constructed, 8 foot high barnwood fences. 

This made the operation virtually invisible from the road, however, it was in plain site from the air.

Around mid-June information was provided to the Drumheller RCMP which related to some suspicious activity occurring on the acreage.

This search was conducted with the  participation of many agencies/units, including  Medicine Hat ALERT, Calgary ALERT, Calgary Police., Calgary RCMP Sections, Emergency Response Teams, and Drumheller RCMP

An anonymous source near the scene told the Mail, “We couldn’t see anything from the road, and nothing from the field, we didn’t know anything was going on there.”

According to the same source, the 7 acre site was purchased through a law firm earlier this year, for $279,000.

Visit www.drumhellermail.com for more photos and updated information.

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Recycling centres to be monitored

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    The two recycling centres, located at the Drumheller Greentree Mall parking lot and opposite the 7-Eleven store are to be fitted with monitoring equipment to help prevent scavenging, confirmed Tammi Nygaard, landfill operations manager.
    As previously reported in The Mail, February 24 edition, Nygaard updated  inSide Drumheller the installation of monitoring equipment has now been approved.
    “We are going to be doing it, it is just a matter of sourcing the equipment, figuring out where they are going to go, what kind of camera we are going to use,” she said, adding that the downtown drop off, now situated opposite the 7-Eleven, would probably be the first site fitted with the equipment.
    “It’s more central and more open...We are anticipating a lot more abuse at that site because of its location.”
    Nygaard also said they are experiencing problems with people not flatpacking their cardboard recycling.
    “People need to break the cardboard down,” she explained. “Partially collapse d boxes open again when they are inside the bin, creating voids...We’d like more to be put in the container before we transport it because we are pretty much transporting air in some cases right now. We are trying to get the maximum payload on the bins so the revenue from the product will cover the transport costs.”

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