New river water tests from North Saskatchewan show more contamination after Husky oil spill

A new water sample from the North Saskatchewan River has exceeded drinking water guidelines.

Latest results show new water contamination, no plans to shut off water treatment plants again

Around 250,000 litres of oil spilled into the North Saskatchewan River in July. (Matthew Garand/CBC)

A new water sample from the North Saskatchewan River has exceeded drinking water guidelines.

The water sample, taken near Prince Albert, Sask. found Benzo(a)Pyrene, a carcinogen that can be found in everything from car exhaust to coal tar. The last time a water sample exceeded guidelines was in August. Only two samples have exceeded the drinking water guidelines since testing began. 

In July, a Husky Energy pipeline near Maidstone leaked up to 250,000 litres of oil into the river.  Since then, a working group has been trying to remove the oil from the water as well as contaminated silt from the riverbanks. As of last week, the province estimated 88 per cent of the oil had been cleaned up.

Last week, the Water Security Agency (WSA) gave North Battleford and Prince Albert permission to start drawing drinking water from the North Saskatchewan River once again. 

However, the WSA said the new contaminated water test will not impact plans to get the plants up and running again.

"(The oil) is attaching to sediments," said agency spokesperson Patrick Boyle. "So, the water treatment plant can efficiently remove the oil because it's attaching to the sediments and essentially doing what the plant is designed to do." 

More results

The tests also showed two new samples that exceeded aquatic life guidelines, bringing the number to 22.

As well, 28 more samples of sediment were found to exceed guidelines. Those guidelines are meant to protect organisms that live on the bottom of the river, and are an integral part of the aquatic food chain.

Ultimately, the results aren't shocking to the agency.

"I don't think anything we've seen here is a surprise to us right now based on the testing that we've seen so far," said Boyle. "It's something that we're continuing to watch."

The previous time the province issued a water report was September 9, 2016. The next tests are scheduled for late September/early October.