Water restored to rural Prince Albert, Sask., residents

Almost two weeks since the Husky oil spill brought the flow of water to rural residents near Prince Albert, Sask., to an abrupt halt, the taps were turned back on at noon Friday.

City has been trying to restore drinking water supply since the Husky oil spill

Prince Albert restored water to rural residents at noon Friday. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Almost two weeks since the Husky oil spill brought the flow of water to rural residents near Prince Albert, Sask., to an abrupt halt, the taps are back on. 

The water supply was restored to more than 1,200 residents of communities surrounding the city around noon Friday. Water will also be returned to the Eastview and Driftwood mobile home parks.

The municipality has been working to restore its drinking water supply since the Husky Energy pipeline leaked more than 200,000 litres of oil and thinning chemicals into the North Saskatchewan River in late July.  

On July 25, the city shut off its water intake system to protect its water supply from the the oil mixture, which was floating downstream from the leak site near Maidstone, Sask.

Water restrictions were enforced on city residents while the municipality worked to build temporary water lines from the South Saskatchewan River. 

Water to rural areas, which purchase their water from the city, was cut off completely to prioritize the local supply to city residents. 

With the 30-kilometre emergency waterline and other measures in place, some water restrictions for city residents have been lifted but rural residents were still without potable running water until Friday. 

A big relief

Rural Municipality of Prince Albert resident Sarah Anderson was among those whose drinking water supply was cut off after the oil spill. 

Now that the taps are running with potable water, she is looking forward to being able to do her laundry and flush her toilet, small luxuries that are often taken for granted.  

"It was awesome actually, just listening to it fill the tank," she said.

"It was a great feeling just to know that we have that access back."

Her family of four was completely without water for about five days before she was able to get some hauled in from Prince Albert. 

Sarah Anderson stands in front of a portable water tank with her son, Hunter, 7. (Submitted by Sarah Anderson)

It's back, for now

Water services may be back on, but city manager Jim Toye said there is still a risk the services could be revoked. 

"As the city is resuming gradual resumption of water service to its customers, risk still remains with the infrastructure, and as such, the city reserves the right to reimpose water restrictions if necessary," he said.

Toye said the city, which lifted restrictions on heavy water users like car washes and laundromats on Thursday, made an early decision to supply its own residents first. 

He added that rural residents did have access to some water, although not from the city. He said that was a factor in the decision to return supply to businesses first. 

"If they were without water that might have been a different decision," he said.  

The city supply is now coming from three sources: the 30-kilometre waterline to the South Saskatchewan River, a six-kilometre line from the Little Red River and a storm water reservoir.

A pumping system drawing water from Little Red River is one of three water sources being used by the city of Prince Albert. (CBC)

Looking down the line

With the winter freeze expected to arrive in about 90 days, the city is working on a deadline to find an alternative solution to the above-ground waterlines. 

Toye said staff members will have to think creatively. 

"Our team is working with consultants right now to look at different options, what that might be," he said.

"At this particular time we haven't really nailed anything down but we have a lot of ideas on the table."

With files from Jill Morgan and Marc-Antoine Belanger

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