Imperial Oil yet to clean property in Fort Simpson after 2021 floods

A year after flooding in Fort Simpson, N.W.T. destroyed its fence, one of the richest companies in the world still hasn’t cleaned up its property. That's causing concern to some in the community.

The $33-billion company said it intends to repair the fence, but is assessing the site first

Some of the damage left behind by the flooding in Fort Simpson, N.W.T. The plot of land is owned by Imperial Oil, which has yet to mitigate the damage. (Luke Carroll/ CBC)

A year after flood waters in Fort Simpson, N.W.T., rose overtop of Imperial Oil's property, the company has yet to clean up its destroyed fence. An environmental technician in the N.W.T. worries that the flooding of the site has caused widespread contamination.

The fence surrounding Imperial Oil's property still lies on the ground, a visual reminder of the devastation that took place during the 2021 flood.

Fort Simpson's Mayor Sean Whelly, driving by the damaged property, said it's strange that one year later, the mess still hasn't been cleaned up by Imperial Oil, "one of the richest companies in the world."

Imperial Oil is a Canadian petroleum company worth over $33-billion dollars. 

The fenced off land is owned by Imperial Oil. The fence was damaged during flooding in 2021, but has yet to be cleared or repaired by the company. (Luke Carroll/ CBC)

Dean Holman is an environmental management coordinator with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation. He has over 30 years of experience in the field as environmental health and safety technician, including work in the oil sands. 

He said he "absolutely" believes the flood water running over Imperial Oil's land resulted in contamination to areas of the island. 

Holman grew up near the site, and said it was previously a tank farm and then a refueling station. He said the tanks were gone by the time he moved out of the community in 1979 or 1980, but he worries the cleanup standards at the time were far below the current standards. 

"Their idea of reclamation is a lot different than the standards of today," he said.

He also said that last year's flooding made clear the potential for wider contamination, with "people's houses being flooded and then that potential contamination ... reaching outside of what's designed to be a contained area."

Reached for comment in response to the flood damage, Lisa Schmidt, a spokesperson for Imperial Oil, said in an email that the company is "working on plans to assess the Imperial site and intends to repair the fencing this year."

"Future plans for the site will depend on the results of this assessment work," wrote Schmidt.