Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Wanna do coke while working for big oil? Buy fake pee...


For the first few weeks, the products only dribbled out the door. But as word filtered through town and out to the work camps, success of the phony pee business suddenly became surreal. From a land where the rush is on for synthetic oil comes a push for a processed product of a different kind: synthetic urine. Just three months after selling his first bag of fake pee from Herbal Essentials, store owner Kelly Hermansen is moving between 35 and 50 units a week, along with other drugmasking products.

His Fort McMurray customers cross all socio-economic, workforce and cultural lines, says the 24-year-old. "But 95 per cent are oilsands workers, telling me they're worried about passing pre-screen piss tests because they have mostly pot -- but meth, crack or coke, too -- in their system. Some guys even wear them just in case they face a random test."

Oilsands companies rely on mandatory drug and alcohol testing to help ensure safety at the plants, where employees handle expensive, heavy industrial equipment that's potentially dangerous. Other than the initial screening tests, urinalysis is used following workplace incidents only, industry officials say. Hermansen's top seller (aptly named Number 1) costs $85. For that, buyers acquire 3.5 ounces of synthetic urine sealed inside a clear vinyl package that looks like a hospital IV-drip bag. Attached is a wide, white elastic waistband. Once the user fastens the belt around the waist, the urine bag rests against the abdomen with a dangling drainage tube. On testing day, the user rips open the cellophane-wrapped heating pad, gives it a shake and applies it to the belt side of the sack. Within 15 minutes, the fake pee is to reach appropriate temperature and stay warm for up to eight hours. Don LeGatt, a consultant toxicologist for Dynacare Kasper Medical Laboratories, an Edmonton company that tests Suncor employees, questions the ethics of businesses selling these kits, because the intent of the process is to ensure a safe workplace. Hermansen makes no apologies. "The reality is we live in a city with a lot of drug use and a lot of people who want to hide it."

(taken from the CALGARY HERALD).
© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2005

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