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Chief says First Nations need to be part of pipeline monitoring and regulatory process PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kelly Provost   
Wednesday, 27 July 2016 13:11

Poundmaker Chief Duane Antoine laments the impact of an oil spill on the North Saskatchewan River. Photo courtesy of Rory MacLean of the FSIN.

 

At least one First Nations leader says the Husky Energy oil pipeline spill into the North Saskatchewan River might have been avoided if industry had provided meaningful consultation with First Nations about the construction of pipelines in traditional Treaty 6 Territory.

Representatives of the FSIN, the Battlefords Tribal Council and Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs are speaking in the wake of the Husky Energy oil spill in the North Saskatchewan River.

They addressed reporters this morning at a location along the river in the Battlefords.

Chief Crystal Okemow of the Lucky Man Cree Nation says this is an "eye-opener" for First Nations and industry -- but she also believes this was something that was bound to happen.

Okemow says First Nations need to become a part of the monitoring and regulatory aspect of the oil industry -- adding this may have been avoided if First Nations had a greater say on the location of pipelines.

"Because the water and Mother Earth mean so much to First Nations people, the duty to consult and accommodate not only gives us the opportunity to protect our way of living," she says.  "And if we were given that opportunity, maybe this could have been handled better.  Maybe it wouldn't have been such a big leak.  It could have been different.  Maybe the pipeline could have been moved further away from the river itself."

She believes their children will still be dealing with the effects of the spill years from now.

Sweetgrass First Nation Chief Lorie Whitecalf says those who live off the land will feel this the most.

"A lot of our people here continue to live a very traditional lifestyle," she says. "So when we have something in the environment that hinders our vegetation, our animals, our waters -- it hinders, basically, our drug stores that are in our backyard, our grocery stores."

Whitecalf says Husky Energy contacted her within an hour of the discovery of the spill -- but she has yet to hear from the province or the federal government.

Poundmaker Chief Duane Antoine says he first started receiving official notice from Husky on Monday by e-mail.

Whitecalf says they have yet to hear from Husky what the true impact of the spill will be.

Chief Kenny Moccasin of the Saulteaux First Nation says some members of his band are talking about staging a protest against Husky Energy over the impact of the spill.

"A lot of my people rely on the hunting along the river, the berry picking, the picking of sweetgrass and traditional herb medicines," he says.

Moccasin says Husky Energy officials waited four days before contacting him -- something he is "not too impressed" with given that Husky infrastructure is situated roughly 50 kilometres from his First Nation.

 
Premier says safe water supply is priority in wake of oil spill, not discussion on pipeline safety PDF Print E-mail
Written by Manfred Joehnck   
Wednesday, 27 July 2016 12:51

Premier Brad Wall meets with reporters. Photo courtesy of Manfred Joehnck

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says now is not the time to talk about pipeline safety, instead he says all the discussion should be about making sure there is a safe drinking water for tens of thousands of central Saskatchewan residents following last week’s contamination of the North Saskatchewan River by a pipeline break.

Today was the first time the Premier has spoken to local reporters since the 250,000-litre spill happened last Wednesday.

He will tour the affected communities tomorrow including North Battleford, Prince Albert and possibly Melfort. They are all downstream from the spill, and have had to shut off their water intakes and find alternate sources of water until the river is declare safe again. Wall says the big question is just how long that will be.

Environment officials have said it could be months, but no one knows for sure. The premier is pushing department officials to get a more accurate assessment of the time frame.

"We are asking the Water Security Agency to do whatever they can to make sure we are providing an accurate estimate because local officials need it, and we need it as a government." he said.

NDP Leader Trent Wotherspoon is not satisfied with the response of the Wall government.

He says it took more than a day before information was released to the public. He adds that the immediate spill response was inadequate and communities are still not getting all the support they need.

Wotherspoon says now should be a time of all hands on deck, not politics.

"Right now, what we don’t need is a political fight," he said. "What we need is a full response -- standing together as a province to clean up this oil and protect the water," he adds, "It sickens me and saddens me to no end that we had this period of time that oil continued to spill into this river."

Husky provided new information today that suggested there was an indication of a spill Wednesday, July 20th around 8:00 pm. Attempts were made to find the source of the location, but it wasn’t until the next morning with the help of an aircraft, the oil slick was seen on the North Saskatchewan River near Maidstone. Valves to the damaged pipe were turned off at 6:00 am.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 July 2016 13:17
 
Sask. Environment admits booms are losing effectiveness in skimming oil from contaminated river PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joel Willick   
Wednesday, 27 July 2016 12:37

 

Map of new water pipeline being constructed between Prince Albert and South Saskatchewan River.

Husky Energy and Ministry of Environment crews continue their work to clean up as much of the oil spill as they can.

Government officials say crews will be focusing on cleaning up the shoreline from the spill site for a 20-kilometre stretch to Highway 21.

Nine booms have been set up along the river to allow crews to skim oil off the river’s surface.

However, Ministry spokesperson Wes Kotyk admits these booms lose their effectiveness when the oil sheen moves down the river and thins out.

"The nature of the sheen and the way it is moving in the river has caused limited success in being able to recover material on the surface," said Kotyk. "They are still having those evaluations and may look at continued boom deployment, but at this point they are focused on those areas where they would be the most effective."

The Environmental Protection branch director also says they will continue to monitor the oil that has moved passed these booms and are currently working on a plan to deal with oil that has dipped below the river's surface.

Officials say up to this point, 14 wild animals have been killed because of the spill, primarily birds. Another five animals are currently in treatment.

As communities try to find clean sources of water, the final community along the North Saskatchewan River system appears to be in a good spot.

Sam Ferris with the Water Security Agency says Cumberland House should not be threatened by the oil spill.

"They have an off-stream storage reservoir and are working to ensure that reservoir is full," said Ferris.

Nearly 10,000 people in the Melfort and Prince Albert area are on a boil water advisory.

Residents in Saskatchewan are also reminded to not use the North Saskatchewan River for recreational use specifically in areas impacted by the oil spill.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 July 2016 13:20
 
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