Remember that Husky oil spill in Saskatchewan? You know – the one described as so massive it could shut down the water supply of Prince Albert for up to two years? Turns out – not so much.
Let me remind you of the details. On July 20 the spill occurred and it took a day before Husky let officials know. The spill was said to be 200,000 to 250,000 litres, or 200 to 250 cubic metres to use a more usual measure for oil. Farmers were forbidden from drawing water from the North Saskatchewan River. Downstream communities of Prince Albert and North Battleford shut down their water treatment plant intakes and built temporary pipelines to get fresh water for residents, who initially weren’t able to shower or brush their teeth. We saw images of a kilometres-long oil slick and oil-soaked blue herons.
The company’s media response was lacking, to put it mildly. The timing couldn’t have been worse as hearings were continuing on the Transmountain Pipeline and set to begin on the Energy East pipeline on August 8. It served as more fodder for the LEAP Manifesto crowd, in their efforts to keep Alberta oil in the ground.
Well, the reality of the situation is now emerging.
The amount of the spill – approximately two railcars full – has been mostly cleaned up: 145,000 litres have been recovered and efforts to get to 80 per cent are continuing.
It appears that 115 wildlife specimens died – not great, but only a fraction of the 6,185 birds killed last year by Arizona’s Ivanpah solar farm (1,145 of which were incinerated by the solar farm’s intense and highly reflective heliostat panels).
Experts collected 1,400 water samples from 60 locations which were analyzed by a technical team of government officials and consultants. No sample failed to meet the guidelines for safe drinking water after July 23. Elevated levels of hydrocarbons were found in 42 samples, but only two samples had levels of tolulene and pyrene that exceeded levels recommended for aquatic life. Scientists said they are not expecting a short- or long-term impact because the elevated levels would need to exist at high frequency for a long period of time to have an effect.
Within the next few weeks Prince Albert and North Battleford are expected to restart their water intakes and Husky has already paid $5 million in goodwill payments to cover their costs so far.
In the end, this is a good news story. At least it should be. Somehow I expect there won’t be nearly so much fanfare to the resolution of the spill as there was to the original reports.
As far as the extreme environmental movement is concerned, that’s mission accomplished.
I spoke with Canada Action’s Cody Battershill about the political fallout from the spill. Our interview is below. If you’d like to comment, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org