Photo of North Saskatchewan River near Prince Albert courtesy of Mervin Brass of Treaty 4 News.
The leading edge of an oil plume making its way down the North Saskatchewan River has already made its way past Prince Albert, but it is anyone’s guess how long the city will be under emergency water restrictions.
The plume from last week’s pipeline spill near Maidstone entered the city at around 1 p.m. Monday.
Provincial officials can’t say how far the oil slick will travel down the river, but Sam Ferris with the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency says it might slow at the Codette Reservoir.
Ferris says it “could be some time” before the water in the river is deemed to be safe to be used for drinking water, adding it will likely be weeks or months.
Saskatchewan Environment says at least six animals have died from contact with the oil — four birds, a fish and a frog. Spokesman Wes Kotyk expects there are more animals that will die or have already been killed as a result of the spill.
Kotyk also estimates “less than 50 per cent” of the estimated 200 to 250 cubic metres of leaked oil has been recovered.
Environment and Climate Change Canada has confirmed there is oil beneath the surface of the river.
Spokesperson Lo Chang says some of the oil is mixing with the sediment in the river.
“This river is fast-flowing,” she says. “There is sediment, quite a lot of sediment in this river and it’s mixing and, therefore, it is getting heavier and going towards the bottom. In terms of the cleanup option for this, we’re still assessing that.”
Husky Energy spokesman Al Pate says the company is “deeply sorry”, accepts full responsibility and “will make things right” — noting that many of the Saskatchewan residents affected are Husky employees.
“We’ll deal with the financial issues in an appropriate manner as they come up,” he says. When asked Monday if this meant the company would cover the costs incurred by communities to deal with the situation, Pate said: “Absolutely. We’ve already said we’re responsible. We’ll make it right.”
Pate says it’s too early to know what caused the pipeline to leak, adding the investigation could take weeks or even months.
Environment and Climate Change Canada says its enforcement officers have opened an investigation into the incident to determine whether there has been a contravention of federal environmental or wildlife regulations.