By: Bryan Eneas
Saskatchewan’s Water Security Agency continues monitoring the North Saskatchewan River following last year’s Husky oil spill.
Recent tests found trace levels of twenty-nine different compounds in Prince Albert drinking water, according to Sam Ferris, an executive director with the Water Security Agency,
“You can’t report zeroes, all you can report is less-than-detection,” Ferris said, adding that none of the chemicals were present at levels that would impact public safety.
“Essentially [the numbers reported] are as close to zero as we can measure right now… These are all below detection, there’s a handful of standards which apply [to chemicals] in the water, and they’re all below those numbers.”
Tests found toluene, a chemical used in gasoline products, at a level of 0.159 milligrams per kilogram of sediment taken from the middle of the river in Prince Albert.
Ferris said the city’s water remained safe to drink.
“The water treatment plants in North Battleford, Prince Albert and the Melfort [and] Codette regional system all work very well to remove sediment materials,” Ferris said. “I don’t think it represents a risk in terms of drinking water.”
Ferris said it was unexpected to find toluene in sediment samples; typically the compound breaks down quickly. He said there are no national guidelines for acceptable levels of toluene in sediments in Canada.
Ferris said the sediment samples taken upstream of the spill site do show contamination, but it’s most likely from a smaller incident, like a boat motor spill due to the chemicals which were found.
River water samples produced by the Water Security Agency show no detectable traces of any compounds.
A statement issued by the Water Security Agency on July 20 stated none of the detected compounds exceed sediment quality guidelines to protect aquatic life.
Ferris said the Water Security Agency will continue to monitor the water and sediments monthly until October, or whenever the river freezes over.
A June 28 release issued by the Government of Saskatchewan stated no oil has been detected in devices submerged in the North Saskatchewan River.