Spill tip line will release information on website
In the wake of three oil spills in June, four groups have joined together to launch a new pipeline spill tip line that will release information and photos to the public.
“The tip line is active and people can call it if they witness a spill,” said Mike Hudema, a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada.
Greenpeace, the Alberta Surface Rights Group, the Council of Canadians and the Sierra Club are the groups behind the new tip line. They were also part of a recent ad campaign calling for an independent pipeline review in Alberta, and Hudema said the new line is part of those efforts.
The new line is both a telephone line and a website. Hudema said people who witness spills are encouraged to take photos and videos that will be shared through the website www.cleanwateralberta.com.
Once confirmation of a spill has been made, the information will be posted to the public on the Internet, Hudema said.
Information received through the tip line will be passed along to the appropriate authorities like the Energy Resources Conservation Board.
“We definitely want to ensure spills are dealt with as quickly as possible,” Hudema said. He said he’s noticed that when lobby groups like Greenpeace report a spill, there’s a “much quicker and much more robust” response from the authorities.
The line will not be staffed 24 hours a day but it will be monitored, Hudema said. They encourage the public to contact the ERCB or Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development as well, but to keep the new number in mind to help get the information out to the public.
“That information should be publicly available and readily available,” Hudema said of spill statistics that showed more than 600 spill incidents in Alberta in 2010. He noted it is in ERCB reports but said it wasn’t easy to spot.
Bob Curran, a spokesperson for the ERCB, said the 600 estimate sounded reasonable.
“That’s probably not far off,” Curran said. He noted every spill is reported, “even if an ounce gets dropped.”
The ERCB has an annual report that’s available to all Albertans, Curran said.
As for the new tip line, Curran reminded people that any concerns about energy operations can be phoned in to the ERCB.
“We have field staff on call 24 hours a day,” Curran said. “We spend a lot of time working in the community, making sure people are aware if they have any concern … to call us.”
Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development has an environmental emergency hotline for people to call that’s staffed 24 hours a day, said spokesperson Jessica Potter.
“It’s not automated,” Potter said. She noted their public line is also the one the industry calls when there’s a problem.
The provincial department is coordinated with the ERCB for emergencies, Potter said. She said there’s concern about the new tip line.
“There may be confusion about who Albertans call,” Potter said.
In 2011, a total of 11,573 calls were directed to the environmental hotline. Potter said about 10 per cent of the calls met emergency criteria but all of them were followed up.
As for the information becoming public, she said Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development does make information about oil spills available.
“We do try to put up as much information as possible,” Potter said, adding that the department is trying to move towards more transparency.
Potter noted the Plains Midstream release of reportedly up to 3,000 barrels of oil into the Red Deer River in early June was called in to the environmental emergency hotline.
The spill released into the river and ended up in Gleniffer Lake, where booms were installed. Most of Gleniffer Lake was reopened for the Canada Day long weekend.
An update on July 6 from Plains Midstream said work continues on cleanup and reclamation and Alberta Health Services has determined that water intake facilities can now resume withdrawing water from the reservoir.
The new tip line number from the environmental and landowner groups is 1-800-237-7455. The ERCB Red Deer field office 24-hour emergency line is 403-340-5454. Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development’s environmental emergency hotline is 1-800-222-6514.