Alberta oil spill will take months to clean up
Officials say the cleanup from a pipeline rupture near Sundre in central Alberta will take months, possibly even to the end of the summer.
About half a million litres of light sour crude spilled into the Red Deer River with some of it washing into the Gleniffer reservoir, which provides thousands of Albertans with drinking water.
Neither Alberta Health Services nor the City of Red Deer have issued boil water advisories or drinking water advisories in Red Deer, Red Deer County or Mountain View County.
The province is continuing to monitor water and air quality.
"Below the boom containment meets Canadian drinking water standards," said Alberta Environment spokesperson Jessica Potter on Sunday about some initial results that were sent to the lab. "Those are first results, so that's a really good sign."
Water is not to be used for drinking for both humans and animals from north of Sundre to the reservoir.
The company responsible for the pipeline rupture, Plains Midstream Canada, has been trucking water in for residents in the area.
To access the water delivery program, residents are being advised to visit the resident information centre at the James River Community Hall, which is open from 4-8 p.m. this week.
A news conference with Plains Midstream Canada is scheduled for Tuesday at 1 p.m. to update the public on the situation.
Area residents say smell made them sick
Ila Johnson and her husband live on a farm near Sundre that has been in their family's name for more than half a century. She was working out in the yard the day of the spill and said a "horrible smell" floated in and they couldn't tell exactly what it was, but it kept getting stronger.
Johnson phoned the Sundre Petroleum Operators Group, which notified Plains Midstream Canada's 24-hour control centre in Olds, Alta., about the spill on Thursday night.
"I decided to go to the hospital because I just couldn't catch my breath," she said.
Johnson said this is the third spill that they have lived through on the Red Deer River — one in 1994 that had a big impact, one in 2008 and the most recent one this past week — and her family has developed "hyper-reactive airways."
She said her farm can't produce food right now and the spill has a huge impact on everybody in the area: ranchers, resort operators and people looking to enjoy Gleniffer Lake — a popular fishing and boating spot.
There are land agents at the resident information centre who are currently taking complaints about losses, which may turn into compensation claims in the future.
"I can't imagine being downstream and having to use that water ... there are so many chemicals even if they clear up the spill," Johnson said.
Last fall, between September and December, there was a pipeline on her property that had three breaks. She would like to see safer practices, like not putting pipelines through rivers, and worries about the integrity of older pipelines.
Johnson said there is a lot of oil and gas activity in the area and her property is totally surrounded by pipelines and facilities.
At least two birds have been affected by the oil spill, according to officials.
Plains Midstream Canada said it has eight teams out looking for wildlife that may have been affected.
Company vice-president Stephen Bart said so far there have been few confirmed reports of animals in distress.
He said some of the people on foot patrols are carrying noise devices to scare birds away from oil-affected areas and they have set up flags and visual deterrents to try to keep wildlife away from the site.
Bart said there were two strokes of luck that prevented last week's spill from being much worse than it is.
He said one was the fact oil wasn't flowing through the pipeline at the time.
And Bart said because the Red Deer River was swollen with recent rain, it washed the oil to the Gleniffer reservoir where it can be more easily contained by booms.
He said that left only localized pockets of oil on the river.
With files from The Canadian Press