An historic oilsands site north of Fort McMurray is about to go through a big transformation this summer.
Alberta Culture and Tourism is doing environmental remediation work at Bitumount, which was designated a provincial historic resource in 1974 for its significant role in the development of the oilsands.
Executive Director of the Historic Resources Management Branch Matthew Wangler tells Mix News part of work includes removing four structures that have already collapsed.
“What we’re doing there is really just cleaning up the debris from those former structures. Then we’re going to be removing asbestos and lead paint from two cabins at the site and remediating mercury from five of the industrial buildings at the site as well, so it’s really an environmental clean up we’re undertaking this summer.”
Because it’s an historical industrial site, Wangler says Bitumount has a lot of mercury and asbestos issues, so every year they try to do work on both the environmental remediation side as well as conservation.
“This is a little bit of both,” said Wangler. “Ultimately we’re hopeful the structures will be converted into interpretive structures that the public can access.”
Work being done on Bitumount is similar to another project in southern Alberta – the Turner Valley gas plant site.
Wangler notes in the early days of the oil and gas industry in Alberta, there wasn’t the same regulatory framework or interest in environmental issue like there is now, which means the province has a lot of work to do to address the environmental clean up at both these sites to properly remediate them.
The Bitumount project is currently out to tender – but the hope is to have work completed by the end of summer.