Flames from the LNU Lightning Complex fires along Interstate 80 in Vacaville, Calif., on Aug. 19, 2020. The highway was closed in both directions shortly afterward. Credit – Noah Berger—AP
Imagine Massachusetts on fire, literally the entire state engulfed in flames. That is how much land has already been ravaged—at least 5 million acres—in the wildfires of California, Washington and Oregon. Put another way, in just a few weeks these fires have burned as much land as was destroyed by a decade of using napalm and Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. With temperatures over 100°F, toxic air now blankets tens of millions of people, power outages have afflicted vast regions, and dozens have already died from the blazes. Air quality in West Coast
In the northeastern corner of Alberta, nestled among the expanses of forests and wetlands, lies a major freshwater dilemma that Canada is currently facing.
Just down the river from Fort McMurray, massive ponds stretch for miles, filled with toxic water.
For decades, the Canadian oilsands industry has been filling these ponds with wastewater from oil extraction. The purpose of these ponds is to store and reuse water, in order to reduce the amount of new water taken from the nearby Athabasca River.
The reuse of water for oil extraction causes tailings ponds to accumulate higher and higher concentrations of harmful contaminants. As such, the water in these tailings ponds is dangerous, and often lethal, to birds, fish, frogs and plants.
Currently, there is enough sludge-like water to fill half a million Olympic-sized swimming pools—and this volume continues to increase. This huge amount of wastewater has recently