Saskatchewan

Government to inspect Sask. pipelines crossing potable water

The province says it will inspect all oil pipelines that cross water sources in Saskatchewan, in a response to public concerns over a pipeline leak into the North Saskatchewan River in July.

Province says inspections a response to public concerns after July oil spill

The North Saskatchewan River flows from Alberta through Saskatchewan where, east of Prince Albert, it joins the South Saskatchewan River to become the Saskatchewan River. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

The provincial government announced Friday it will inspect every oil-carrying pipeline at the point where it crosses underneath municipal water sources in the province. 

"We've started with 35 crossings— the highest priority 35 crossings— and then we'll expand in a second phase to 90 [more] crossings," Energy and Resources Minister Dustin Duncan said. "We just want to ensure that Saskatchewan people can feel secure in their potable water sources, that they are in fact safe, and that the crossings are in fact in compliance and the companies are in compliance." 

The move comes in response to public concerns, a government release said, following the Husky Oil pipeline breach into the North Saskatchewan River in July. That spill forced several communities to stop using water from the river and find other sources. 

Duncan said the first 35 crossings scheduled to be inspected are underground pipelines that run below bodies of water, and the next 90 crossings are located at tributaries that feed into potable water sources.

"Once the Husky investigation is complete, we're obviously going to look at what we do in this province when it comes to the regulatory process, when it comes to pipelines, but this is an interim measure," Duncan said. 

He added that the ministry normally "plays a regulatory role" when a pipeline is constructed, but after that it's up to companies to comply with the rules.

Once the Husky investigation is complete, we're obviously going to look at what we do in this province when it comes to the regulatory process, when it comes to pipelines.- Energy and Resources Minister Dustin Duncan 

"The ongoing inspections have been the responsibility of the operator as per the standards that are in place," he said. "What we're doing now is having our economy staff going out to visually inspect and do some follow-up with the companies." 

Duncan said the investigation into the cause of the Husky oil spill is ongoing, and when that's known, the government will "have to obviously make some decisions about whether or not we need to make some changes with how the [inspection] regime works in Saskatchewan."

The Ministry of the Economy also says it will work with pipeline operators and the National Energy Board to makes sure all pipelines are up to standards.

Duncan said the newly-announced inspections' results will be made public.