Between 200,000 and 250,000 liters of crude oil and other material from a breach in a Husky Energy oil pipeline near Maidstone Saskatchewan leaked into the North Saskatchewan River.
The crude oil and other material leaked into the river on Thursday upstream from a breach in Husky Energy’s pipeline near Maidstone, Sask. Maidstone is about 84 kilometers west of North Battleford. North Battleford saw signs of the spill early Friday morning and shut down its water intake from the river. The town has a ground water supply as well. The company had shut down the line and put out booms across the North Saskatchewan River about 40 kilometers upstream from North Battleford.
An anonymous Saskatchewan government official said that the oil was getting past the booms as it was lifted above them by high water levels.
Prince Albert, a city of about 35,000 people a considerable ways down from the spill is already planning to treat storm pond water as a backup as the oil lead advances towards it. Sam Ferris with the Saskatchewan water security agency said that most of Prince Albert's water came from the river. Staff are getting ready to shut down the intakes when oil begins to appear in the river. Water treated from other sources would last about a week he said. He said: “At this time, we don’t think the plume is going to reach Prince Albert for some time, likely not before sometime later Sunday or early Monday.” The city issued a statement on late Friday that urged residents to fill bathtubs and water jugs with water over the next day.
Wes Kotyk of the Saskatchewan government environmental protection plan told media that Environment Canada is working on a model as to when communities can expect the oil to pass and how long it will take to pass through but the calculations are made more difficult due to recent rains adding to the amount of water in the river. Kotyk said that the first group of containment booms had been damaged due to debris coming downstream from recent rains. The rain made the water turbid as well and would make it more difficult to remove the oil. He said: “The water is quite dirty with suspended particulates and whatnot, and in some cases you can get oil attached to those particulates.If you run into these semi-floating blobs of mud and oil, that can be more problematic.”
There is as yet no word as to what caused the leak or the size of the breach. Husky having shut down the pipeline is more worried about making sure the cleanup works out and after it is done can investigate the breach. The area of the leak must first be dug up and the company does not yet even know the exact location of the leak.
Merv Fingas, a scientist based in Edmonton said the shoreline of the North Saskatchewan River will likely be impacted by the oil spill. As well as the heavy oil, a type of lubricant mixed with it also is part of the leaked material. Fingas said of the spill: "It probably poses very little threat to aquatic life. The heavy oil that is there has very few toxic components which are water-soluble." The lubricant would evaporate fairly quickly. Fingas said that oil would collect on shorelines especially on curves coating grasses and aquatic plants. However, Fingas said that in his view pipelines were a low-risk means of moving petroleum.
The Saskatchewan Premier, Brad Wall, who is known for his strong support of pipelines, said that his support for them was not changed by the spill, saying:“The facts remain that if we’re not moving by a pipeline, it’s going to move … (by rail). We know that rail is actually more susceptible to spills and spills are often more intense.”