Spill cleanup continues

By Geoff Lee

August 4, 2016 12:00 AM

Scene of the July 21 oil spill in the North Saskatchewan River from the bridge at Hwy. 21. Hundreds of people are involved in the cleanup, a job that is expected to take some time to complete.

Husky Energy continues to investigate the cause of an oil pipeline spill into the North Saskatchewan River as the cleanup effort is in full swing.
This week, more the 400 outside workers and 200 Husky personnel are focusing efforts from the point where about 250,000 litres of heavy oil leaked into the river near Maidstone, downstream to Hwy. 21.
The province’s Ministry of Environment reported Tuesday that 130,000 litres of oil and other materials have been recovered with a follow up report due Wednesday after our press deadline on how much oil has sunk and may not be recoverable.
The ministry also planned to release interim findings Wednesday on at least 250 water sample results since the spill was reported on July 21.
The animal death toll because of the spill has risen to 58 birds, fish and other wildlife with wildlife deterrents currently in place, along 30 kilometres or so, of shoreline downstream from the leak entry point.
Seven animals are in recovery at Focus Wildlife in Maidstone with support from Husky.
Saskatchewan officials are continuing to caution residents to limit recreational activities in the North Saskatchewan River except for boating and catch and release fishing.
The cause of the pipeline leak has yet to be determined, but Husky spokesperson Mel Duvall said the pipeline that leaked was built in 1997 and bored under the river.
It’s part of company’s Saskatchewan Gathering System carrying heavy oil and diluent.
Duvall confirmed the leak itself occurred on land noting, “With it being a slope, the oil went downhill.”
Approximately nine kilometres of shoreline had been cleaned by Wednesday morning, with 11 booms along an 18-km stretch of water to contain oil.
The oil sheen on the surface of the river is being removed by hydrovacs, one of a number of techniques being used,  including the skimmer booms.
Crews began low pressure washing the shoreline then moved on to other forms of removal including using large whippersnappers to remove impacted vegetation.
The idea is to contain material that could become dislodged and re-suspended into the river.
“It is a very controlled, focused, methodical program and it’s being led by one of the foremost cleanup experts in the world,” said Duvall.
The cleanup effort is being led by Owens Coastal Consultants (OCC) that provides worldwide scientific support for spill response operations and spill response planning.
OCC is headed by Dr. Ed Owens,  who’s been at the forefront of shoreline response technology since 1970.
The shoreline work on the river is being coordinated by OCC officials and Husky staff at the Lloydminster operations centre.
“A lot of it is planning the next steps,” said Duvall, referring to the 200 or so Husky employees working on the project.
Duvall said Husky continues to maintain daily contact with affected communities downstream from the oil spill including North Battleford and Prince Albert.
Husky has posted a company liaison person in Prince Albert to provide closer coordination of clean up efforts in that city.
Prince Albert and North Battleford shut off their water supply intakes following the spill and both communities have now tapped into alternative water sources.

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