Prince Albert moves to emergency planning as oil-spill boom breached

The city of Prince Albert, Sask., activated its emergency operations centre on Saturday afternoon to put together a contingency plan after noting that a boom set up to contain an oil spill upriver had been breached.

City says it could store enough clean water to last until end of week

The city of Prince Albert, Sask., activated its emergency operations centre on Saturday afternoon to put together a contingency plan after noting that a boom set up to contain an oil spill upstream on the North Saskatchewan River had been breached.

A pipeline break, reported by Husky Energy on Thursday, resulted in an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 litres of oil reaching the North Saskatchewan, entering the water near Maidstone, Sask.

Booms had been initially setup in that area to try to contain the spill.

Prince Albert, among other communities which use the river as their source of water, has put together plans to close its intake valves. According to the city, a boom had been breached and the oil spill continues to travel downriver. 

In an email Saturday night, Mel Duvall, a spokesman for Husky Energy, said the company's containment and cleanup efforts in the wake of the spill are ongoing.

He did not specifically address the issue of whether a boom had breached, but did note that a boom deployed near the Paynton River ferry crossing was experiencing some difficulty.

"While containment has been challenged by high water levels and resulting floating debris, recovery operations continue," Duvall said, adding that "additional actions" were being implemented.

A provincial official said in a media briefing Saturday that some oil had moved past that boom.

"Not all of the oil was contained at the surface," said Wes Kotyk, executive director for the environmental protection branch of Saskatchewan's Ministry of Environment.

Officials noted more booms were also being placed in the river at other strategic locations.

Prince Albert officials said the oil plume could reach the city as early as Sunday.

Emergency water storage

In a statement late Saturday, the city said had it enough potable water stored to supply the city for 48 hours, adding that that could be extended by using another storage system.

"The potential use of a secondary retention pond... could potentially extend the duration of the city's water supply until the end of the week," the city said. Officials were exploring long-term options "to ensure that there is a reliable, long-term source of clean, potable water until the situation is resolved."

People and businesses were urged to minimize water usage.

"Any non-essential use of water must cease and desist immediately," the statement said. "Residents are encouraged to minimize flushing of water and shower usage. Residents are asked to not water their lawns or wash their vehicles until further notice."

Further information was expected to be provided during a news briefing on Sunday.

A meeting of Prince Albert's city council was also set to take place Monday, with a bylaw to impose emergency water conservation measures on the agenda.

Provincial officials say the oil plume has already reached North Battleford and the oil is not one continuous mass. Some of it is floating on the surface of the water and some is suspended in the river.