Hundreds of thousands of litres of raw milk were dumped or trucked out of Manitoba because of the TransCanada Pipeline explosion.

Two dairy processing plants were left unusable because the natural gas service was halted.

David Wiens, board chair for the Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, said their processing capacity was already reduced because two companies are in the process of amalgamating plants and moving the operations to Brandon, and a plant in Winkler recently shut down.

Then the explosion happened.

About 4,000 natural gas customers lost their supply after a section of pipeline ruptured and spewed balls of flame into the air at about 1 a.m. CT Saturday near Otterburne, 50 kilometres south of Winnipeg.

Officials with TransCanada Pipelines are investigating the rupture and say they still don't know what caused it.

Pipeline explosion

The pipeline explosion that lit up the sky south of Winnipeg on Saturday was so loud it sounded like a jet plane, witnesses told CBC News. (Courtesy Jordan McRae)

For three days after the blast gas furnaces could not be used, leaving homeowners to rely for the most part on electric heaters. Several schools and businesses — bakeries and restaurants that use gas-powered ovens — were forced to close.

Wiens said 300,000 litres of milk had to be dumped because there was nowhere for it to be processed. The cost of that discarded milk is $240,000.

"There's a number of different farms that can receive the milk into their manure storage facilities and so then it's taken care of properly, but that's the way it's done," he said.

Another 200,000 litres of milk have been trucked — at great costs to the Dairy Farmers of Manitoba — to processing plants in Saskatchewan and Alberta. By the weekend, the total amount shipped out could be closer to 570,000 litres.

"Basically we were filling the … the storage tanks at all the processing plants [that were available] in Manitoba and they were doing as much as they could," Wiens said.

"It didn't take very long and we realized that we'd have to start moving milk further to Saskatchewan and Alberta."

'Perfect storm'

But that wasn't easy, Wiens said. There's a limited amount of equipment that can haul it that far and then some trucks were stranded by blizzard conditions that shut down the Trans-Canada Highway going west.

Wiens said he's never seen anything like this situation. There's been blizzards or plant break downs, resulting in one day where the milk can't be moved, but the recent series of events was a "perfect storm."

He hopes with gas service now restored to the two plants impacted by the explosion, they may not have to dump any more.

The plant in Grunthal is expected to get up and running on Wednesday morning and the New Bothwell plant was operational as of Tuesday night.

Wiens does not expect consumers to feel any impact from what happened. The dairy organization is keeping track of costs incurred and will look for any available compensation.

Manitoba Hydro said its staff is continuing to work around the clock to complete restoration of natural gas service to communities affected by the pipeline explosion.

The natural gas supply to all customers in the Rural Municipalities of Ritchot, Hanover, La Broquerie and De Salaberry is now available.

Manitoba Hydro said crews worked to visit all commercial customers by the end of Tuesday and will get to all remaining rural and urban customers by the end of Wednesday.