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Alberta orders lake drained to contain bitumen leak

First Nations near Cold Lake, Alta., are angry an oilsands company is draining a lake close to their home without consulting them.

Cold Lake First Nation angry over lack of consultation

First Nations near Cold Lake, Alta., are angry an oilsands company is draining a lake close to their home without consulting them.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd is emptying two-thirds of the lake in an effort to stop a bitumen leak from its oil production plant.

Cecil Janvier. a member of the Cold Lake First Nation, says draining the lake isn't acceptable. (CBC)

Cecil Janvier, a member of the Cold Lake First Nation, says he has never supported oilsands production.

"It shouldn't have gotten this far," he said. "It's just common sense that something was bound to happen."

More than 1.5 million litres of bitumen — a mixture of oil sands, heavy crude and water — has leaked on CNRL's Cold Lake Site.  So much, so fast, Alberta Environment ordered CNRL to drain the lake near Janvier's home immediately.

Trevor Gemmell, with Alberta Environment, says it was an emergency, and because it was an order, no consultation with the First Nation was required. 

"Most pipeline spills are over in a matter of days, but this has been going on for a while," he said. "And the temporary measures that are in place right now that are containing the release, they won't be effective during the winter months."

But Janvier says draining the lake isn't acceptable. 

"Now what? What does CNRL get? A slap on the wrist? What about us? What about my heritage? What about my traditions? My culture? Am I just chopped liver?"

Alberta Environment says CNRL is aiming to refill the lake by next summer.

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