The oil spill that contaminated the North Saskatchewan River last week began when Husky Oil resumed sending oil down a pipeline expansion. The company told CBC it first detected anomalies in the pipeline flow at 8 p.m. on July 20 just as it sent oil down the line as part of its Saskatchewan Gathering Expansion Project.
About 200,000 litres of oil spilled into the river near Maidstone, west of Lloydminster in southwest Saskatchewan.
Contaminated water travelled 500 kilometres downstream from the spill, forcing thousands of people in towns and rural areas who rely on the river for their drinking water scurried to find new sources. It took Prince Albert, for example, several days to hook up a 30-kilometre water line from the South Saskatchewan River to feed into its water treatment plant.
Husky told CBC via e-mail that the section of pipeline that failed was installed in 1997, but evidently it was near to a 23-kilometre section of new pipeline.
A geography professor at the University of Regina questioned why the expansion project had not triggered the need for a provincial environmental review, even though sections of the new pipeline run under the North Saskatchewan River.
By August 1 the worst affected area around the spill had been cleaned. Most of the oil stayed on the surface, and 126 cubic metres had been recovered. The oil was sticking to plants and over 30 birds and animals had been found dead. It wasn’t known whether some oil remained at the bottom of the river.
The Saskatchewan government was advising people not to eat fish from the river, to avoid recreational activities in the waters, and to keep pets and livestock away.
Further clean-up assessments will be focusing on 38 kilometres of shoreline.
To read a CBC report of July 28, click here.