Update on Saskatchewan oil pipeline spill

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – At last word, officials were monitoring the North Saskatchewan River as oil from a major Husky Energy pipeline leak made its way downstream.

Prince Albert, a city of about 35 thousand people, northeast of Saskatoon, gets most of its water from the river, and city staff was said to be on stand-by to shut off intakes.

It was also said, should that occur, it’s estimated the city would have enough water in its reservoirs to last about a week.

Earlier provincial government officials said, because of high water levels, booms placed on the river at the end of last week failed to contain the spread of the spilled oil near Maidstone, at a site about 30 kilometres southeast of the Alberta border at Lloydminster.

The Husky pipeline burst last Thursday and spilled as much as 250 thousand litres of crude, about the equivalent of two rail tanker cars.

That led officials of nearby North Battleford, a smaller city southeast of Maidstone, with a population of close to 15 thousand, to shut down its river fed water intake plant, after reports of oil on the river, which flows south and east through the community before merging with the South Saskatchewan east of Prince Albert.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix has reported that Husky’s chief operations officer, Rob Peabody, has confirmed the leak was not under river water and that some of the spilled oil was on land.    

Although the newspaper said the province believes Husky has successfully recovered more than 40 thousand litres of the spilled crude, we still have no report on what caused the line to fail, or how much of the spilled oil ended up in the river,

An Environment Ministry official has reportedly suggested this is likely the province’s most significant oil spill since loaded oil tanker cars burst in a CN freight train derailment 190 kilometres south of Saskatoon, in 2014.

It also said Premier Brad Wall, a vocal supporter of pipelines, told reporters at the Premier’s meeting in Whitehorse last week, that while pipelines remain imperfect in terms of moving oil, they’re still the safest way to do it, and spills from rail cars are four and half times more likely.