Co-op Refinery Complex leaks sludge into City of Regina wastewater system

Sludge leaked into Regina's wastewater system from a leak at the Co-op Refinery Complex (CRC) that was detected last week.  

CRC says strong and sustained winds caused sludge to discharge into sewage system

Last week, the City of Regina discovered that oil had leaked from the Co-op Refinery Complex into the city's wastewater system. (Aldo Columpsi/CBC)

Sludge leaked into Regina's wastewater system from a leak at the Co-op Refinery Complex (CRC) that was detected last week. 

A statement from CRC said analysis found irregularities that led to the leak being discovered on May 22. CRC said the situation was immediately isolated.

"Strong and sustained winds leading up to the date of the incident resulted in stirring up sediments in the pond resulting in a discharge of sludge into the sewage system," the CRC statement said. 

CRC said there was no threat to the environment and the public was not alerted to the spill because there was no immediate threat of danger. The investigation into the spill is still ongoing. 

The City of Regina said it continues to test and to work with the water security agency and ministry of environment, according to an emailed statement.

The city statement said it was told by both of those agencies said there was low risk to the environment and downstream users as a result of the leak.

" As a precaution downstream users are being notified, but no action is required at this time," the City said.

The Water Security Agency praised the City of Regina's quick actions upon detecting the sludge and said it would be continuing to monitor and test waters downstream from the wastewater processing plant.

On Saturday a spokesperson for the agency said the risk for now was relatively low to habitats downstream, based on the flow, mixing and dilution of the substance.

Unifor calls for ministry investigation

On Saturday, the union representing over 700 locked-out CRC employees issued a statement after news of the leak broke.

"Local 594 will be calling on the Ministry of Environment, and all other appropriate agencies, to conduct a full and thorough investigation into the release from the Co-op Refinery," the Unifor statement said.

"There are real concerns that once oil enters the city wastewater system that it can easily migrate into the Qu'Appelle Valley waterway that many farmers use for irrigation and drinking water."

Unifor Local 594 president and CRC employee for 23 years Kevin Bittman said although he didn't have all the details about what caused the leak, he felt CRC's explanation didn't have merit.

"To say that it was winds that caused that, to me, without a thorough investigation, how do we determine that?" he said.

Local 594 president Kevin Bittman said it's concerning the leak was discovered by the City of Regina, not CRC employees, and called for a full investigation into the matter. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Bittman said the wastewater system at the refinery would currently be run by replacement workers and managers, as people who would normally be handling those duties are locked-out Unifor members.

The union statement said last week's spill is the type of "major incident" members were afraid of when they were locked out by their employer last December, when replacement workers and managers took over operating the refinery.

Government needs to end dispute: NDP

A statement from the provincial opposition party said the spill highlights the need for the government to end the labour dispute between the union and its employer. 

Unifor accepted recommendations made by a provincially-appointed special mediator earlier this year, however CRC did not accept them in full.

"This dispute has gone on far too long and is putting lives and vital infrastructure at risk," NDP leader Ryan Meili said. 

"For the sake of public safety if nothing else, it's time for Scott Moe to show leadership and bring this damaging dispute to an end."

Meili's statement said when the legislature reconvenes, the NDP expects to see the premier take steps to end the dispute and ensure a full investigation into the spill takes place. 

The ministry of environment did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.