Canadian and American residents who live close to the border have been concerned about the formation of large black clouds blowing over them and even finding black dust that has managed to seep its way into the apartments and homes of residents.
The black clouds are believed to be caused by storing piles of petroleum coke, a byproduct of bitumen from the tar sands, in dumping grounds. Residents are concerned about the effects this kind of substance will have on their health, and although officials assure them there is no risk, residents remain skeptical.
Rhonda Anderson of the Sierra Club succinctly articulated the concerns of residents in Detroit in an interview September 2nd with Daniel Lak of Al Jazeera.
“[They are] concerned about their health, because the dust was flying off, flying off onto their window sills, getting into their apartments, and so if it were that easy to seep into their apartments then that means that they’re breathing it.”
Public outcry prompted local governments to act by removing the dump which stores the petroleum coke, but with the tar sands continuing to operate, it means the petroleum coke will have to be dumped somewhere, and will likely mean residents both in Canada and the United States have not seen an end to the blowing black smoke.
Tourists and a crew on a Canadian tour boat on the Detroit River witnessed the black smoke firsthand, not knowing if it was the beginnings of a tornado Captain John Sheridan of Windsor River Cruises opted to pull over.
“I thought it was a tornado, it was so frightening, it was shaped like a tornado and though we didn’t really know what it was, it was a huge black cloud and it just obliterated the entire bridge,” Sheridan said.
The verdict is still out on how we will deal with these potentially harmful by products from the tar sands, however as Professor Miriam Diamond from the University of Toronto notes, there is a very little care given to dealing with energy byproducts.
“Our whole society is built on cheap energy [but] that cheap energy does not include the cost of energy byproducts, such as waste piles of residuals, and this is a really expensive problem that’s still waiting to be solved.