Effects of Alberta oil spill still unknown

Keep records of damages | Farmer’s advocate office asking Plains Midstream Canada to pay for vet checks for baseline charts

Alberta’s farmer’s advocate is contacting farmers and ranchers affected by a recent pipeline spill in the province’s west-central region.

The 12 inch pipeline was breached June 7 and 3,000 barrels of light sweet crude oil spilled near Sundre. Oil was quickly moved by the fast flowing Red Deer River and ended up in Glennifer Reservoir, 30 kilometres from the original spill. The reservoir is 18 sq. km and located west of Innisfail.

The pipeline is owned by Plains Midstream Canada, and more than 260 company workers are cleaning up the river and its banks and collecting daily water and air quality samples.

“Nobody knows the actual damages or losses or the costs, but if we get people following a comprehensive process of record keeping, it will make it easier to advance their claims,” said farmer’s advocate Peter Dobbie.

“What is really frustrating is if you incur costs or have a loss, but have a difficult time proving it. That is often the challenge.”

The advocate’s office wants farmers to keep records on potential damage, including written reports, pictures and video of effects on their property and livestock.

Loss of grazing, costs to move animals and haul water and animal health should be recorded.

The office can help people set up records and work on potential damage claims.

The advocate’s office also wants the company to pay for veterinary checks on herds to obtain baseline information on health and determine if there are later effects on livestock.

The office is also talking with the company about damages.

“We are recommending a non-adversarial process be set up to make it relatively clear and straight forward for farmers and ranch operators to be able to advance claims,” Dobbie said.

Landowners can call the farmer’s advocate office at 310- 3276 for further information.

Plains Midstream Canada has established a community response line at 866-670-8073.

The company is responsible for cleanup, and an investigation will be launched to see what went wrong on the line built in 1966, said Cara Tobin of the Energy Resources Conservation Board.

The company also owned a pipeline that was breeched last year in the Peace River district, where investigations continue.

Past failures and non-compliance with regulations are considered when these events occur, she said.

“The ERCB does require the companies to review the integrity of the pipelines on a regular basis and report that to the ERCB,” she said.

The industry watchdog does not issue fines, but it can shut down a facility or stop the company from operating in the province.

Plains Midstream owns 5,000 km of pipelines in Western Canada, and one-fifth of the crude oil passes through its system each day, said Stephen Bart, vice-president of crude oil operations. This section of pipeline extended 30 km from the contamination point to the reservoir and was bought from Pacific Energy Partners.

There are no cost estimates at this time and the company would not reveal exactly where the leak occurred.

“We believe it was underneath the river, but until we’ve had a chance to remove any residual oil from that segment of pipe and remove the pipe, we won’t know for certain,” he told reporters.

The Red Deer River flows for 750 km from Banff National Park until it empties into the South Saskatchewan River.

Some environmental groups claim this leak was an accident waiting to happen.

“The company appears to be doing everything it can to reduce the damage and we hope it can be cleaned up with the least amount of damage,” said Gerard Aldridge, executive director or the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance.

It is too early to say what the longer-term impact might be on drinking water and aquatic ecosystems, he added.

“An incident like this is a real prime example of what can occur and potentially cause harm to it,” he said.

“It will certainly be a matter of discussion during our land use components for our integrated watershed management plan.”

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