Fort Liard, N.W.T., wants decades-old BP gas site cleaned

The wells ran dry at a gas field near Fort Liard, N.W.T., 11 years ago. Still, the company has yet to finish cleaning up the site.

11 years after well ran dry, site is still not completely cleaned up

A project that started out badly for people in Fort Liard, N.W.T., seems to be ending the same way.

Leaders say the community was promised jobs and business opportunities when oil company British Petroleum wanted their support developing a gas field at nearby Pointed Mountain. But there were few jobs and opportunities once the gas started flowing.

Fort Liard chief Harry Deneron said he doesn't know who to trust anymore, and that it seems like government regulators are favouring BP. (CBC)

BP started exploring in the area in 1964, and gas first started flowing at the Pointed Mountain wells in 1972. The wells ran dry 11 years ago, and BP cleared away buildings, pipelines and well heads.

Fort Liard chief Harry Deneron said he was led to believe the cleanup was almost finished.

Now, 40 years later, all the gas is gone and there's a big mess left behind.

Deneron was surprised by a recent independent report showing there's still more than a quarter million cubic metres of contaminated soil there.

"I'm very frustrated, who to trust anymore. It seems like they favour that giant oil company. I feel like I've lost trust in Northern Affairs to do those inspections on that land," said Deneron.

Deneron said authorities are not pressuring BP to finish the cleanup, and regulators are letting the community down. He said he doesn't know why the oil giant is being given such an easy ride.

"I've got so much suspicion and mistrust, I don't even want to guess what it could be," he said.

But those in charge said the company still has time to finish.

Karen Polakoff, the manager of land administration with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, said BP still has the lease for another 11 years, so they still have time to clean it up. (CBC)

"It's just an ongoing project. It could take several years still to be done. There are current leases on the site until 2022, so they have until the expiry of those leases to complete their cleanup," said Karen Polakoff, the manager of land administration with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

BP's current land use permit – which expires next month – requires it to finish the cleanup this year. However, the company has sold the property to Apache Canada Ltd. as part of a massive $7 billion deal. An official with BP said Apache is now responsible for the cleanup.

The Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board is refusing to comment on the project.