Saskatchewan

'We are going to be OK': North Battleford mayor on river oil spill

The mayor of North Battleford, Sask., is expressing confidence that the water supply for his city will remain safe despite a pipeline leak that led to oil spilling into the North Saskatchewan River.

Advisory in place to reduce some water use

North Battleford uses water from wells and from the North Saskatchewan River. The intake from the river has been closed due to a spill of oil. (City of North Battleford)

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The mayor of North Battleford, Sask., is expressing confidence that the water supply for his city is safe despite a pipeline leak that led to oil entering the North Saskatchewan River.

"We are going to be OK for ensuring that the safety and security of North Battleford's water is there," Ian Hamilton said Friday, a day after the spill was reported.

Husky Energy said Thursday that a leak from one of its pipelines spilled about 200,000 litres of heavy oil mixed with another product (a diluent that helps the oil flow easily) into the North Saskatchewan River near Lloydminster.

The company said it shut the pipeline — part of its Saskatchewan gathering system — which halted the release.

The oil was noticed as a sheen on the river Thursday morning. It entered the river about 30 kilometres east of Lloydminster, where Husky Energy has a processing facility.

"We have to deal with it," North Battleford's mayor said. "We've taken some measures to ensure the water quality in North Battleford is not compromised."

We know we can supply the water.- Ian Hamilton, mayor of North  Battleford

Hamilton noted the community of about 14,000 has two sources for its water supplies: water that is processed from the river and water from wells.

Hamilton said the city has stopped drawing water from the river and will rely on well water, calling it a precautionary move.

"We have secondary sources of water," he said. "We topped up all of our reservoirs."

According to Hamilton, the city will have enough water to meet its normal needs.

"If there was a major fire event, possibly then we're looking at some issues," he said. The city has also asked residents to hold back on water use for things like lawns and car washing.

"We haven't imposed a water ban because we know we can supply the water," he said.

Hamilton said the city expects that with the intake line from the river to the water treatment plant closed, any slick should pass by the city without affecting its systems.

"My latest information is that slick might come by in the next two, three hours," he said Friday mid-afternoon.

Oil expected to reach city Friday night

The course of the North Saskatchewan River highlighted from Maidstone to east of Prince Albert (and beyond where it merges with the South Saskatchewan River to become the Saskatchewan River). A leak from a Husky Energy pipeline near Maidstone led to some 200,000 litres of heavy oil entering the river Thursday. (CBC)
Around 6:30 p.m. CST officials from the city issued a statement saying they had been notified, by Husky Energy, to expect oil from the spill to reach the community Friday night and added that "it will be more oil than anticipated."

In the statement, the city said they were implementing advice from provincial authorities to reduce water use in the following ways:

  • Car washes in the city will be shut down.
  • Laundromats will be closed.
  • Residents are urged to not water gardens or lawns.
  • Residents should not use any water for outside cleaning (like washing vehicles).

The statement noted that water consumption for daily use (for drinking, food preparation and showers) was not affected by the advisory.

The protocol on water use will be in effect for three days.

"We urge our residents to help us conserve water wherever they can," the statement added.

Concern for nature area

The mayor also noted concern for a river island that serves as a nature park for residents of North Battleford and nearby Battleford.

"It's a beautiful place ... that might be impacted by some of the oil residue," he said. "Hopefully not. But we'll see what happens."

He said he has been in contact with provincial officials and he is pleased with the level of communication. While he has not had any direct interaction with Husky Energy, Hamilton said he is relying on the environment ministry to keep him informed.

Hamilton said he did not have the technical knowledge to provide an estimate on when any concerns about the water would be over. He said city officials are on top of things.

"I'm relying on my very professional people right within the city of North Battleford," he said.

With files from CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition

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