02/19/2013 07:57 EST | Updated 04/21/2013 05:12 EDT

Families Abandon Homes Near Alberta Bitumen Facility

smoke emission from factory...
Half a dozen families have abandoned their homes in a northwestern Alberta community blaming emissions from a nearby heavy oil production site.

"We probably should have left earlier than we did," said Erin Lebreque, whose family moved away from the Peace River area, 365 kilometres west of Fort McMurray, in October.

Lebreque believes a nearby bitumen extractor facility, operated by Baytex Energy Corp., caused the nausea and headaches his family had been experiencing for months.

Baytex did not agree to an interview, but said it's not drillling new wells until it completes its own air quality study.

Alberta's Energy Minister Ken Hughes is looking into complaints from residents of the Peace River area, although the facility appears to be operating within provincial guidelines.

As the CBC's Briar Stewart reports, residents are calling on the government for more testing and stricter regulations.

Also on HuffPost

The Oil Sands and Canada's Environment