Oil spill clean-up continues
Enbridge’s oil pumping station about 24 km south of Elk Point is now fully operational after suffering a release last week, but further evaluations in terms of testing the soil around the site continue, said company spokesperson Graham White.
According to Enbridge officials, the release occurred last Monday when around 1,400 barrels of heavy crude oil leaked out of the station. The majority of the spill was contained within the station boundaries, however some of the product was sprayed onto a landowner’s field.
White confirmed the cause of the release was due to a failure of a flange gasket, which has since been replaced. The station was given approval to resume operation from the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) on Sunday evening.
The 541 km pipeline that runs directly underneath the station and stretches from Fort McMurray to Hardisty, was restarted two days after the leak.
Following the detection of a leak, the pipeline, known as Line 19 or the Athabasca Pipeline, was immediately shut down. Once the pumping station was isolated and following inspections of other gaskets by the ERCB, the line was restarted, said Incident Commander John Giacetti.
Enbridge officials have confirmed the entire surface product that was released has been cleaned up while remediation efforts continue. There is no risk to public health or safety, officials said. Scare canons were used to ward off birds from accessing the site.
Two days following the spill, Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills MLA Shayne Saskiw, along with members of the County of St. Paul, visited the Enbridge station to speak with officials and observe the cleanup.
County of St. Paul Reeve Steve Upham said he was pleased with the oil company’s handling of the situation and noted the spill was contained within the berm, as per regulations. Upham has spoken with the private landowner, who was contacted by Enbridge regarding the company’s commitment to ensuring the land is brought back to its original state.
Line 19 has a capacity of 345,000 barrels per day and last week’s incident marks the third oil spill in the province over the past two months. Because of this, critics of new pipeline infrastructure are asking the government to have an independent assessment of Alberta’s pipeline safety.
“Every time there is a spill or some accident occurs, regulations are looked into and seen if they need to be adapted into that particular situation,” Upham said. “We live in a part of the world where oil development and extraction is what we are and what we do.
“Any time you put oil in a piece of pipe in the ground, there’s risk for things to occur,” he continued. “Our job is to make sure the risks are minimized or eliminated.”
Saskiw reiterated the reeve’s comments regarding the speed and efficiency of cleanup efforts and said he was on site to ensure people are not detrimentally affected by the spill.
“It’s important to our community because the oil industry is the lifeblood of our economy and it affects a lot of our families,” Saskiw said.
“We’ve heard from many different groups that there aren’t enough front line workers to actually come on the ground and check these types of things out,” the MLA added. “It’s in everyone’s best interest that the environmental regulations are strictly enforced so that these things don’t happen again.”
Enbridge’s proposal to build a 1,177 km pipeline transporting diluted bitumen from Bruderheim, Alta. to a port in Kitimat, B.C. is undergoing review and has received increased negative response from those opposed following the recent spills.
“We’re a landlocked province and we have to sell our product somewhere,” Saskiw said, commenting on potential new markets for Alberta’s bitumen, as opposed to selling to the United States alone. “So far, pipelines are the safest modes of transportation for that product. Until something better is found, we have to go with that route.
“At the same time, we have to ensure that those pipelines are as safe as possible,” he continued. “Overall, our general philosophy is to do more upgrading here right in Alberta before we ship out our raw product. We want the jobs and the economic spin-offs to stay within our province.”
According to Enbridge’s website, all of the contaminated soil next to the station has been collected and approved for removal. The soil within the station is stored in containers for removal, the website said.
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