Spills happening at a rate of about 2 per day in Saskatchewan: researcher

University of Regina researcher Emily Eaton said that there have been 8,000 spills in Saskatchewan since 2006 (about 17 per cent involved Husky Energy). Smaller pipelines, she said, are the provincial government’s responsibility.

Rapid clean up key to recovery, says environmentalist

Researcher Emily Eaton told CBC Radio there are 100,000 kilometres of oil pipeline in Saskatchewan. (Reuters)

A researcher says spills are happening at a rate of about two per day in Saskatchewan's oil industry.

University of Regina researcher Emily Eaton runs an independent website that tracks oil impact.  Eaton said that there have been 8,000 spills in Saskatchewan since 2006 (about 17 per cent involved Husky Energy).

Eaton notes that the spills relate to oil, salt water, natural gas and other fluids used by the oil industry.

Smaller pipelines, she said, are the provincial government's responsibility.

"The province should and could do a lot more," said Eaton.

Eaton said the province does not have enough inspectors.

The reason most of the spills do not get the sort of attention this latest Husky Energy spill into the North Saskatchewan River is receiving, according to Eaton, is that they happen in the oil patch.

"A lot of these spills are smaller than this current one, the Husky one … they often spill into farmer's fields in rural oil producing areas," she said. 

"Many spills like this are happening everyday across the province without any awareness from the public."

While Eaton questions whether a spill can ever effectively be cleaned up, in the case of many of the spills in this province, industry fails to even go through the motions. Eaton said she has spoken to a number of landowners about their experience with spills.

"A lot of them are very frustrated; some of them have been waiting for remediation and cleanup for decades sometimes."

Eaton is not alone is casting a critical eye on spills in the oil industry.

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)

Rapid cleanup key to recovery, says environmentalist 

Peter Prebble, with the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, is focused squarely on this latest Husky Energy spill.

Prebble shudders at the idea of oil contaminating such a vital waterway as the North Saskatchewan River.
Peter Prebble was a guest this morning on CBC Radio. (CBC)

"This mixture is acutely toxic," he said.

"This can negatively impact wildlife. It can lead to reproductive failure, developmental deformities, behavioural impairment, immune function," he said. "I doubt very much that we are really getting the true picture of how wildlife is being impacted all along the North Saskatchewan River."

Prebble is frustrated with the lack of public information about the spill coming from both Husky Energy and the provincial government, and hopes both are taking the clean up seriously.  

"It's critical that it be removed from the surface as quickly as possible because it will tend to sink."

Prebble believes that clean up must extend to hundreds of kilometres of shore line along the North Saskatchewan River, and is optimistic that if it is done correctly, the river can recover within a few years.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story reported that a researcher said oil spills are happening at a rate of about two per day in Saskatchewan. In fact, the researcher said that spills of not just oil, but also other fluids used by the industry are happening at a rate of two per day in the province.
    Jul 27, 2016 10:01 PM CT