Saskatchewan

Husky oil spill: Prince Albert testing alternate water lines

Improvised lines are being filled with water, officials in Prince Albert announced Friday, as the city readies to switch to an alternate water supply following an oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River, reported a week ago.

Once testing is done, treated water will be distributed to users

An improvised water line, reaching to the South Saskatchewan River, will be used to supply the water treatment plant in Prince Albert. Crews were testing the line Friday. (CBC)

Improvised lines are being filled with water, officials in Prince Albert announced Friday, as the city readies to switch to an alternate water supply following an oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River.

Prince Albert has been relying on stored storm water after it closed its intake valve. The community has been under a local state of emergency since Monday.

"It would be reasonable to suggest that we could probably have water running through [the temporary lines] later tonight," Jeff De Silva, from the city's engineering department, said Friday afternoon. "We could have treated water off it sometime tomorrow."

The spill, from a Husky Energy pipeline near Maidstone, Sask., led to some 200,000 to 250,000 litres of heavy oil reaching the river. Officials said that clean up efforts had collected about 106,000 litres of material.

Prince Albert started work on two alternate supply lines earlier in the week.

On Friday, officials said a line set up in Little Red River park (which will use water that works its way downstream from Anglin Lake) was ready to operate and deliver water as soon as testing was complete.

Another piping system, extending some 30 kilometres to the South Saskatchewan River, was also completed and crews were filling that line with water.

RAW: Crews build temporary water line for Prince Albert. 0:55

"Once the line is filled, the city [will] start pressuring up the line [and] testing it," De Silva, said. "Once we have a reasonable degree of certainty that it will provide a reliable water supply we can start running it through the water plant."

He said the next step would be to treat the water and then send it through their distribution system to users.

City Manager Jim Toye noted the lines will not be a long-term solution, especially with winter on its way.

Toye was also asked about the role of Husky Energy and said his opinion of the company has improved now that a Husky official is in the community and providing advice and assistance.

"I think that Husky, now, has come to the realization that there is a very large impact in the city of Prince Albert," he said. "So I think they've stepped up more now, than they have earlier on."

Water quality an ongoing concern

Toye said the movement of the oil plume, past their inlet, would be good for the city.

"If it ran over the inlet of the water treatment plant, that's fine. We want it to go past us," he said.

Toye said the concern, about oil, relates to what is not visible on the surface.

"We're now concerned about what's under the river and is sticking to the bottom and can come up later," he said.

The city will be working with an expert who is expected to arrive on the weekend to determine next steps.

Rain has helped

A downpour Thursday actually helped the city, De Silva added.

When Prince Albert closed its intake line it started using water from a storm water retention pond.

Officials are optimistic that two temporary water lines will be ready Friday to pump water to Prince Albert's treatment plant. (CBC)

"The storm pond could continue to supply water to the treatment plant for up to three days," De Silva said.

Supply for rural residents remains on hold

The Prince Albert water treatment plant also supplies water to a rural utility that operates a distribution system. That system has been without water for almost a week and communities, and individual customers, have been making do on their own using trucked-in water or other measures.

Toye said the city will not resume deliveries to the rural system until supplies are stable.

"The main thing we are concerned about is that if we bring it on too soon and there happens to be some type of incident we'd have to take them back down again," Toye said. "Once we are fully sure we are receiving just as much water, or more, from those systems as we do on a traditional day ... then we'll be able to bring them on."

Rural utility will supply water for limited use

The rural utility announced Friday that they will begin delivering water that can be used, so long as people note that the water is under a "precautionary drinking water advisory". That means the water would need to be boiled before it could be consumed.

Those deliveries will be made in different stages to different customers on their lines.