Wapiti Valley, Saskatchewan. Photo courtesy of Enns Kivin, Facebook.

One year ago today, a Husky oil pipeline ruptured near Maidstone spilling 225,000 litres of oil into the North Saskatchewan River.

The pipeline ruptured on July 20th, 2016, but was not reported until the next day. The communities of Prince Albert, North Battleford, and Melfort scrambled to find alternate sources of water because of the contamination. The oil also affected First Nations lands, including the James Smith Cree Nation about 70 kilometres downstream.

On Thursday, environment officials provided an update and addressed some of the problems. Assistant deputy minister Wes Kotyk admits there was a lack of communication with some First Nations, something he says has been corrected.

“We are communicating directly with First Nations as the impacts are identified,” he said. “We have invited them, if they find challenges or issues with any of their sites, to talk to us. So we are opening up and have reached out to open up those lines of communication.”

The cleanup is now into its final phase and will wrap up next month. About 45 people along with oil sniffing dogs are cleaning isolated debris and matted vegetation with concentrations of oil. Ongoing monitoring of water quality will continue until freeze up.

Sam Ferris with the Water Security Agency says testing has confirmed the water meets all provincial and federal standards and he is confident it will stay that way.

“Quite frankly, unless there is another significant event or a hot spot turns up or something to that effect I don’t think there is too much to worry about in terms of drinking water for these communities, and that’s good news,” he said.

Testing has also confirmed that fish and wildlife have not been contaminated by the oil and are safe to eat. Monitoring will also continue to make sure there is no change.

The spill into a flowing body of water, was the largest environmental disaster of its kind in the province. The environment department completed its investigation in March and turned the file over to the justice department which will determine what charges will be laid.

Husky is also footing the entire bill for the cleanup which will run into the millions of dollars. The company is also starting work on rebuilding the ruptured line. It will not be put into service until it gets provincial approval.

The latest report on the spill can be found on the provincial environment department’s website.