Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Environment is overseeing Husky Energy’s response to a major oil spill caused by a leaking pipeline near Maidstone, Sask. Thursday.
Wes Kotyk, executive director of the ministry’s environmental protection branch said during a press conference Friday that the leak was contained, but not before between 200,000 and 250,000 litres of oil was released. Kotyk said that amount of oil would be enough to fill roughly two rail cars.
With the leak stopped, Kotyk said operations have moved to recovery and cleanup.
Kotyk explained that Husky has been able to recover about 40,000 litres on land, or about 15 to 20 per cent of the total oil spilled. He said there still wasn’t a clear sense of how much oil has made it into a plume working its way along the North Saskatchewan River.
He said efforts were underway to contain the plume near the Paynton ferry crossing using booms, where the oil will then ideally be skimmed off.
“Husky is paying for the booms. They’re responsible for all of the costs associated with any reclamation for the incident,” he said.
Kotyk stressed that, to date, Husky has been co-operative with the ministry during the response to the spill. He said the provincial ministry and the federal government would be conducting investigations into the incident.
Kotyk said the ministry remains in contact with communities downstream of the spill, and that those communities will be monitoring the river to make sure oil doesn’t’t get into their drinking water.
North Battleford prepares for possible arrival of spill
North Battleford has shut down its water intake plant because of a major pipeline oil spill.
City spokesman Stewart Schafer said an oil slick has been detected downstream from the city on the North Saskatchewan River.
Reservoirs and the water tower in North Battleford have been filled to capacity as a precautionary measure in case oil from a major pipeline spill reaches the city.
Husky Energy said between 200,000 and 250,000 litres of crude oil and other material leaked into the North Saskatchewan River Thursday morning near Maidstone, Sask.
Husky is trying to contain the spill using booms across the river, about 40 kilometres upstream from North Battleford. Husky chief operations officer Rob Peabody said some of the spilled oil was on land and was being recovered.
“What we do know is the leak was not under the river, as far as we can see,” he told a conference call with reporters Friday morning. “The leak was kind of in a location near the river.”
North Battleford Mayor Ian Hamilton said in the event any oil makes it through, the city’s water treatment plant which draws its supply from the North Saskatchewan, will be shut down.
But he said a ground water treatment plant is still available and officials are asking residents to slow the flow from their taps to help ensure an adequate supply.
A release from the city said any oil that gets past the booms would likely reach North Battleford by Friday morning, but that it does not pose a health risk to consumers.
“I’m being told that these efforts are going to ensure the safety of the water supply and the citizens’ security,” said Hamilton.
The pipeline runs from Husky’s heavy oil operations to its facilities in Lloydminster and carries oil mixed with a lighter hydrocarbon, called a diluent, that’s added to ease the flow.
Ralph Bock of the Environment Ministry said Thursday the Water Security Agency will take samples from the river past the boom before any water intakes to monitor hydrocarbons in the river.
“Right now we’re focusing on let’s just the minimize the footprint of this and we’ll do our damage assessments once we’re sure we’re not going to be causing any more damage,” he said.
Peabody noted no water advisories have been issued so far.
“In terms of how far this has come down the river, there was a sheen noticed initially, we really haven’t seen anything since and none of the communities down the river so far have reported any sightings of oil or oil sheen.”
Peabody said it could be several weeks before a cause of the spill is known. He didn’t know the age of the pipeline that leaked but said it would have been regularly inspected under Husky’s management plan.
Husky president Asim Ghosh was asked about any potential negative public reaction to pipeline spills.
“To be honest with you, I distinguish between a media reaction and a public reaction,” he said.
“But as far as we are concerned, we just focus on getting on with the job, you know. If we’ve got a pipeline spill, we address the pipeline spill. We ensure we’ve got procedures in place and we ensure we make the procedures even more robust from each learning experience.”
-With files from News Talk Radio’s Bryn Levy