'We're fairly confident': Prince Albert hopes new water supply will work

Officials in Prince Albert, Sask., are updating residents on work related to building a temporary water pipeline to a new source of water. The city has been using alternate sources after closing its intake line following an upstream oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River.

Temporary pipeline should be ready before long weekend

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

Officials in Prince Albert, Sask., are expressing optimism that an improvised water pipeline will work as hoped and provide a clean source of water by the long weekend.

Jim Toye, the city manager, said Thursday that their current backup source — a storm water retention pond — will last for another three or four days.

"It could be a dire day in Prince Albert," Toye said, should the temporary piping system not work out.

Prince Albert has been laying two new water lines to gather water. One will connect to the South Saskatchewan River and another runs to a water source in the city's Little Red River Park.

Toye said those lines are on schedule to be ready by the end of Friday, so long as the water quality is good and the volume is sufficient.

"That is, if all the tests go well," Toye added. "We're fairly confident in what we've seen so far."

The city closed its intake line following an upstream oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River.

Earlier on Thursday, provincial government officials provided an update on the response to the spill, reported by Husky Energy a week ago.

The oil, an estimated 250,000 litres, entered the river near Maidstone, Sask. and has led to several communities, including Prince Albert, declaring local states of emergency as they scrambled to ensure a clean source of water for treatment plants.

Prince Albert is building a temporary water pipeline while its intake line into the North Saskatchewan River is closed, due to an oil spill upstream. (CBC)

Prince Albert is Saskatchewan's third-largest city, with a population of about 35,000. Its water treatment plant also supplies a rural water distribution utility.

Toye said the retention pond water has worked out well.

"Very high quality water is being put through our water treatment plant with that source," Toye said. "It's been very good to have that as a backup."

Mayor Greg Dionne said the city's top priority is ensuring a safe water supply, however he does have questions for Husky Energy.

"We will do the review after, you know, it is over," Dionne said. "What happened, what failed, what could have been better. But our focus today is 100 per cent on restoring the drinking water to our customers."

According to provincial officials, more than 60 boats are in the North Saskatchewan River helping with the clean up.

Toye said the city is also going to work on a long term plan to supply water to their treatment plant.

The source of water that will be pumped from Little River Park is Anglin Lake. Toye explained that a dam will release water from the lake, sending it to the park where it will be then be piped to their treatment plant.

Water from the South Saskatchewan River will get to the plant using a system of multiple pumps to lift the water out of the river and across some 30 kilometres to Prince Albert.

Insurance claims process

Prince Albert officials also said Thursday that Husky Energy will respond to private citizens and businesses who wish to make a claim relating to the city's water crisis.

"Husky Energy has provided a toll-free line by their third party insurance agent that has been set up for private citizen and business claims," the city said in a news release.

According to the city, the lines will be staffed by a team to assist with questions and to help people through their claims process. People can call 1-844-461-7991 and fill out their claim over the phone or request a physical claim form. The city also provided an email address to facilitate that process.

Non-potable water for golf course

Toye also noted that people may see water being used on the city-owned golf course.

"There are some ponds on the golf course that we are going to use," Toye said. "It's not potable water from our distribution lines, it's from the ponds."

He said repairing dead grass on putting greens would cost over $200,000.

"So, if anyone see us watering greens at the golf course, that is water that can't be used for what we're putting through the water treatment plant," he said.

The city also announced that the summer fair, the Prince Albert Exhibition, will run — starting next Tuesday — as scheduled. That event will use non-potable water where possible. City-supplied water will only be used, Toye said, for hygiene purposes such as in washrooms and food preparation.

"This is a very important event for our city," Toye said. "We would like to see it go forward."

Cause of spill under investigation

According to provincial officials, as of Thursday about 106,000 litres of oil had been recovered. They noted a plume of oil had advanced some 500 kilometres downstream from the initial spot where it entered the river.

A spokesman for Husky Energy said the cause of the spill was still being investigated.

"We cannot speculate on how long the clean up will take," Mel Duvall said in an email.