Cleanup efforts continue after oil spill
The oil spill is contained and cleanup efforts continue in the aftermath of a leak that caused between 1,000 and 3,000 barrels of light sour crude oil to flow into the Red Deer River near Sundre.
The leak was detected in the evening of June 7. Oil reached Gleniffer Lake where it was contained by booms. During a June 12 press conference, a Plains Midstream Canada representative said containment had been achieved by June 8 with a boom across the Gleniffer Reservoir. Secondary containment was in place by June 9 with a secondary boom farther up the lake.
“That together with wind direction, we’ve been able to contain the spill to a relatively small portion of the lake,” said Stephen Bart, the vice-president of crude oil operations for Plains Midstream. He said most of the oil came to the lake because of how fast the river was flowing at the time of the leak, but there are about 25 isolated pockets where cleanup plans have begun.
He said crews had been working around the clock to install plugs on the pipeline to limit any more oil leakage.
“With the pipeline plugs installed our next step is to try and remove any residual oil that remains in the pipeline,” said Bart. He said they are hoping to build a vacuum station on the east side of the river to draw up any residual oil. As of Plains Midstream’s update on the evening of June 14, no mention of any progress on the vacuum station had been mentioned.
When asked about compensation for affected landowners and residents, Bart said the company was “going to make it right.”
“We’ve been in contact with residents. We’re trying to identify their concerns and how they’ve been potentially impacted,” Bart said. He said the form addressing those impacts would take would develop out of discussions with those individual landowners.
Bart said the cause of the leak hadn’t been determined yet.
“Our focus has been on containment and cleanup and notification with landowners. Our next step is to evacuate the pipeline. Once it’s removed, once any residual oil’s removed from the pipeline, we can then turn our attention to the investigation,” Bart said. He said it’s believed the location of the leak is underneath the river but that is not yet confirmed.
Water and air quality continues to be monitored. Water is being tested by a third party contractor at several locations along the river and at water treatment plants. Bart said all water samples except for one taken on June 8 have been within Canadian drinking water guidelines.
The Plains Midstream information release as of June 14 said there are four air quality monitoring stations and air quality continues to be within Alberta guidelines.
Martin Bundred, a consequence manager with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, said he thinks the “vast majority” of the oil will be reached quickly while a small percentage of it will be in difficult locations like riparian environments. Bundred was speaking at the Dickson Dam on June 12.
“We don’t expect long-term problems,” Bundred said of potential environmental impact in the area.
He said no oil had made it past the middle of the lake.
Jessica Potter, a spokeswoman for the same department, said on June 13 “it’s far too early to even talk charges” against Plains Midstream.
“If there is a need there may be an investigation,” Potter said. She said the current focus is continuing with cleanup and mitigation efforts.
A spokeswoman for the Energy Resources Conservation Board said an investigation can take up to a year.
“The ERCB has a number of enforcement measures at its disposal if a company is found to be not in compliance with our regulations,” Cara Tobin said at the Dickson Dam on June 12. She said those measures can include preventing a company from operating in Alberta, shutting down a particular facility or pipelines and more. The ERCB does not have the authority to issue fines, she said.
The history of the company is something that would be considered when determining what, if any, enforcement actions are taken, she said. Plains Midstream had another oil spill in April 2011 near Peace River.
Tobin said the ERCB is working with companies to determine the state of infrastructure at older facilities and pipelines. She said companies are required to review the integrity of a pipeline on a regular basis and report it to the ERCB but was not sure when that was last done for this particular pipeline, a 12-inch rangeland pipeline built in 1966 that runs intermittently.
She said the line will have to be repaired or replaced to the ERCB’s satisfaction before Plains Midstream could start it up again.
Two beavers, one goose and one crow are the confirmed victims of the oil spill. All four have been taken to the Medicine River Wildlife Centre for treatment.
“So far all four are doing fine,” said Carol Kelly, the executive director with the centre.
A baby beaver was the first to arrive. Kelly said it was brought in by the Sundre Petroleum Operators Group on the first day. Since then a nursing female beaver has been brought in and the two might be released together along with two other orphaned beaver kits that were already at the centre, Kelly said.
Kelly said they’re keeping the animals for observation to make sure the oil didn’t affect them internally. Once staff at the centre are sure the animals are OK – and the goose’s and crow’s waterproofing has returned – the animals can be returned to the wild.
The influx of animals has been slow and Kelly is hoping it stays that way. She said the company has been making good efforts to keep animals and birds away by putting up several different kinds of deterrents like noise alarms, flags and fake birds and humans.
In its June 14 information bulletin, Plains Midstream said four dead fish have been collected for examination by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. The release said oil may not have been a factor in the fishes’ deaths.
According to Bart, Plains Midstream operates over 5,000 kilometres of pipeline systems in Western Canada, with about one-fifth of the total crude oil produced in Western Canada touching its systems on a daily basis.