City of Prince Albert to seek compensation for Husky oil leak response

The City of Prince Albert says it will seek compensation from Husky Energy to cover the cost of protecting the city's water supply from an oil plume drifting down the North Saskatchewan River.

Residents urged to stockpile water as oil plume drifts towards the city

The City of Prince Albert will seek compensation from Husky Energy for the cost of protecting its water supply from an oil leak drifting towards the city. (Ryan Pilon/CBC)

As Prince Albert, Sask., residents stockpile water in bathtubs and Tupperware containers, the city says it will seek compensation from Husky Energy to cover the cost of protecting the city's water supply from an oil plume drifting down the North Saskatchewan River. 

On Thursday, about 200,000 litres of heavy oil mixed with a another petroleum product spilled into the river from a Husky pipeline near Lloydminster, Sask. 

A clean-up effort is underway to retrieve oil from the spill, which amounted to the volume of about two rail cars, but the community of Prince Albert is planning to shut down its water treatment plant before the oil reaches its intake system. 

Contingency plans

The plume is expected to reach the city as early as Sunday and the municipality is asking residents to stockpile water before the supply is shut down. 

City manager Jim Toye said the city is looking at alternative water sources in case the spill effects outlast the stored water supply, which should last at least two days.

He said city staff had been on conference calls with workers from Husky and provincial authorities to minimize the impact and develop a contingency plan. 

Crews work to clean up an oil spill on the North Saskatchewan river near Maidstone, Sask., on Friday July 22, 2016. Husky Energy said between 200,000 and 250,000 litres of crude oil and other material leaked into the river from its pipeline. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Compensation sought

Toye said the city would be asking the company to cover the costs incurred with responding to the plume. 

"We've got staff who've been working long hours trying to come up with solutions, we've had great support by the provincial government and those agencies so yeah, there will be costs associated," he said. 

"And certainly we will be having discussions with Husky about that."

He said it was "disappointing" and "disturbing" that the spill had compromised the city's water supply. 

Drinking water woes

In 2012, the city took measures to safeguard its water supply after problems with its treatment plan put residents under a boil water advisory that lasted six weeks. 

"People want to make sure that when they open their taps they are getting safe potable water that's safe for human consumption and at that time the city confirmed that that's what they would be getting," he said. 

"And we want to make sure that we live up to those expectations of those citizens and we want to make sure that it is safe for them to drink."

He said the city would provide an update on Sunday, and that it would likely put restrictions on water usage. 

The course of the North Saskatchewan River highlighted from Maidstone to east of Prince Albert (and beyond where it merges with the South Saskatchewan River to become the Saskatchewan River). A leak from a Husky Energy pipeline near Maidstone led to some 200,000 litres of heavy oil entering the river Thursday. (CBC)

Storage measures

The Kinsmen Water Park and the city's spray parks will be temporarily closed over the weekend, as part of the effort to conserve water.

Irrigation at the Cooke Municipal Golf Course and various other parks in the city will also be suspended.

The City of North Battleford, which is also downstream of the leak, has already stopped drawing water from the river and will rely on well water in what it calls a precautionary move. 

The community of about 14,000 has two sources for its water supplies: water that is processed from the river and water from wells.

Cleanup effort continues

In a written statement provided to CBC, Husky said the cleanup at the site of the leak was nearing completion and that a thorough investigation would take place.

It said floating debris from high water levels had challenged its efforts to contain the oil with a boom at the Paynton ferry crossing.

The Husky Energy towers in Calgary, Monday, Feb. 1, 2010. The company is releasing their fourth quarter and year end results this week. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

An additional boom has also been established around the water intake at North Battleford, and another is being deployed about 50 kilometres downstream from North Battleford.

"Our response activities are being co-ordinated with all levels of government, and we continue to work closely with downstream communities and our neighbours," said the company's media manager Mel Duvall.

He said the company would continue to carry out surveillance by air, ground, and on the water. 

There have been no reports of impacts to wildlife or aquatic life, Duvall added.