Husky Energy reimburses James Smith Cree Nation for oil spill cleanup

The James Smith Cree Nation is now being reimbursed $140,000 by Husky Energy after a pipeline leaked upwards of 225,000 litres of oil into the North Saskatchewan River, according to band officials.

First Nation has spent more than $150,000 since August during cleanup

New technology provided by the Canadian Floating Fence Corporation is helping gather water samples on the James Smith Cree Nation.

The James Smith Cree Nation is now being reimbursed $140,000 by Husky Energy after a pipeline leaked upwards of 225,000 litres of oil into the North Saskatchewan River, according to band officials.

"They've treated us like second-class citizens in our own territory," said band Councillor Alvin Moostoos.

A Husky Energy spokesperson confirmed by e-mail the reimbursement on Sunday but would not disclose the amount.

Alvin Moostoos, a band councillor on the James Smith Cree Nation. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

The James Smith Cree Nation is located about 60 kilometres east of Prince Albert, Sask., and is downstream from where the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers meet. After the Husky Energy oil spill on July 21, the reserve's chief, Wally Burns, said oil has flowed into the Saskatchewan River and reached the shores of his community. 

Last week, the oil company said it would be reimbursing the First Nation for the money it had spent so far. Moostoos said Chief and Council are meeting next week to discuss next steps, including being compensated for the environmental impacts.

"We'll be letting Husky know what our intentions are and come up with a number," he said.

Since August members of the James Smith have been doing their own cleanup. They also hired an independent contractor to do water sampling and testing.

During the cleanup Moostoos said they were finding dead crayfish and fish. He also expressed concerned about moose crossing the river which may be affected by the spill.

"We've had a hard time convincing Husky we had oil in our community," said Moostoos.

Husky Energy has deployed two oil sniffing dogs capable of sniffing it out up to one metre below the surface. (James Smith Cree Nation/Submitted to CBC)

This week Husky Energy confirmed it had deployed oil sniffing dogs to the James Smith Cree Nation to see if contamination from a July spill has reached the community. A Husky spokesperson said that the dogs are working both sides of the Saskatchewan River and that any oiled debris that's found will be cleaned up.

Late Sunday, Husky confirmed that oiled debris had been found on the First Nation.

Moostoos said they'll continue cleaning up as the temperature drops.

"We're going to keep on hammering on it. We can't leave that river like that," said Moostoos. "We're still struggling. I'm worried about the winter too. It's coming fast. When the ice forms, in the spring it's going to push the oil to the banks of the river. We have to continue cleaning up the area."