Most of the cleanup is done, but the effects of an oil spill on the Ocean Man First Nation will likely linger.
The community, usually a quiet place, was filled with more activity than normal Tuesday as a plane flew above surveying the spill site while trucks and crews worked on the ground to remove the remaining oil.
“There’s various reactions from anger to sadness,” said Chief Connie BigEagle.
“I just don’t want people to be panicking, but I also don’t want it to be made like it’s no big deal – it is a big deal.”
A pipeline leaked 200,000 litres of oil into an ice-filled, low-lying slough on the First Nation. Resident Clint BigEagle told 980 CJME he first discovered the breach with his nose early last week.
“You could smell it,” he said with absolute certainty, having worked in the oil industry for nearly 20 years.
BigEagle admitted he ignored the odour initially, passing it off to be new drills in the area. However, when the smell persisted he decided to investigate himself. That’s when he stumbled upon the oil in the slough and reported it to the band office Friday.
“It makes me sick and mad,” he said.
The pipeline is slated to be excavated Wednesday to find out what caused the leak – and confirm the company responsible.
While Tundra Energy Marketing Inc. is leading the cleanup, there are two other major pipelines in the area.
“Until you actually excavate the ground and find out for sure where the leak actually is coming from … we can’t say that with all certainty,” said Saskatchewan Economy Minister Dustin Duncan. “But we are pretty certain we know where it is coming from.”
Despite BigEagle’s account of having noticed an odour in the week the spill was discovered, Duncan said neither the ministry nor the field offices received any call of such a problem.
So far, 86 per cent of the contaminant has been taken away along with soil samples for testing.
A Tundra Energy employee said the company expects the cleanup to be complete Tuesday.
Pipelines still safe: province
Despite the leak, the Saskatchewan government maintains pipelines are the safest way of moving oil across the country.
The privacy commissioner, however, has questioned the transparency of pipeline inspections.
Media and the public weren’t notified about the spill until four days later, but Duncan insisted Tuesday the province had to concentrate on work going on at the site.
“The priority needed to be containing and beginning the clean-up, and also to determine and ensure there wasn’t a hazard to the public and to waterways,” Duncan said.