River residents hope oil spill cleanup will be successful
Sundre landowner John Mikal says he hopes Plains Midstream Canada will be able to clean up and repair the massive damage caused to the Red Deer River shoreline and its ecosystem by last week’s pipeline oil spill.
Mikal’s river property is located about a kilometre north of Sundre, directly adjacent to the Plains pipeline that ruptured and spilled thousands of barrels of oil into the Red Deer River last week.
“You hear about it in other places, these oil spills, but you never think that one day it will be in your backyard,” said Mikal. “I sure hope they can clean it all up. It is a real sticky issue.
“They will have to access it all, scrape it all off, wash the rocks. It’s all on the banks and into the banks. It looks like it’s clean on top of the rocks, but when you kick them over it’s black. It’s horrible.”
He said he has spoken to many of his neighbours along the river who also want to see a total cleanup.
On Friday morning, Plains Midstream Canada announced that between 1,000 and 3,000 barrels (between 160,000 and 475,000 litres) of light sour crude oil had been released into the Red Deer River from a ruptured pipeline about one kilometre north of Sundre.
Oil from the spill has washed up on both banks of the river all the way from the spill site to Gleniffer Reservoir. There have been no reports of injuries.
Cleanup efforts were launched Friday and were continuing at press time Monday, with about 90 response personnel involved, Plains said.
During a press conference at the James River Community Hall on Sunday, company vice- president Stephen Bart said the cleanup efforts will continue until the entire length of the river to the reservoir is cleaned up.
“We deeply regret any impact this incident may have had on local residents,” said Bart. “We want to assure you that we are deploying our resources to contain the release, protect the environment and respond to your concerns.”
The company is working with the Energy Resources Conservation Board, which oversees oil and gas development in Alberta, the Sundre Petroleum Operators Group, both Red Deer and Mountain View counties, the Town of Sundre, and others in efforts to contain and clean up the spill, said Bart.
Sundre-area MLA Joe Anglin, who is the Wildrose environment critic, was touring the riverbank and visiting with residents at press time Monday.
“I’ve talked to some and I plan to talk to a whole bunch more,” said Anglin. “Some residents have contacted me. Of course as you can imagine the residents who have talked to me are frustrated. Some of them have seen this before.
“I agree with many of them that we have the technology today, we have all the systems and protocols in place, that these things shouldn’t be happening. We need to have the facts come out to find out exactly what went wrong.”
He said he was told by the company on Monday that the cleanup will take months.
“Cleanup is underway and from what I’ve heard it’s going to take about a year to clean it up,” said Anglin. “That’s what the company has said. I think we would all love it done faster. One of the things that will come out of Alberta Environment’s report into the spill is how long it will take, and then we can evaluate if a year is reasonable.”
Anglin said he is not pleased that the company was not the first to report the leak and spill.
“We know that it was a landowner who reported the leak and the spill; it was not the operator themselves. So that raises the question, how did that happen? They (company) should have been able to see that leak long before the landowner smelled it.
“We need to find out, did they even go by their own protocols? We need to find those answers. What we need are answers and then we can decide if there were any rules or regulations that were inappropriate or do we need different rules and regulations.
Anglin has been in contact with the minister of environment and Premier Alison Redford about the spill and cleanup process.
“I think they are just as unhappy as I am,” he said. “What we want is for the company to do what it is supposed to do.”
Landowner Mikal says he expects landowners all along the Red Deer River downstream of Sundre will be seeking compensation for damage caused by the spill.
“We do deserve some compensation for the smell that we are going to have to put up with, and possible devaluation of our land. I haven’t really looked at that very closely but I will be,” said Mikal.
He said he would like to see some changes to the pipeline in question before it is brought back online.
“There are two things they are going to have to do,” he said. “One, they are going to have to bore it under 50 feet like they do with all the other lines now rather than just having it trenched just a few feet down.
“And second, they are going to have to put valves at both ends of the pipeline on both sides of the river.”
All pipelines running under the Red Deer River that do not have the valves currently in place should be taken off-line immediately until the changes are made, he said.
“No question in my mind that is what should be done. This river provides some of the water supply for the people of Central Alberta so it needs to be done. And not only for the water supply, but for recreation and fishing and lots of other things,” he said.
For more, see this week’s Mountain View Gazette.