Water utilities in North Battleford and Prince Albert may have to adopt measures to remove oil during the water treatment process.
The blended crude oil that leaked into the North Saskatchewan River from a Husky pipeline north of Maidstone Thursday, July 21 reached the Battlefords late Friday night, according to government officials, and had not yet passed the area Saturday morning.
Wes Kotyk with the Ministry of Environment said crews have re-established a boom at Paynton, initially failing to stop the plume of oil. Another boom was being set up downstream from the Battlefords at Maymont.
Kotyk said Environment Canada was working on creating a model to predict when and where the plume will make its way downstream. It had not yet reached the Borden Bridge, according to the most recent visual reports Saturday morning.
“There are difficulties, as a result of the changing water dynamics as well as in a river turbulent flow system,” he said. “But we are trying to get some more concrete information and (Environment Canada) is working on getting that for us.”
North Battleford was relying on stored water in its reservoirs and towers, as well as treated well water from its Treatment Plant Number One. Sam Ferris with the Water Security Agency said crews have contained the water intake at the F.E. Holliday Water Treatment Plant.
Late Friday night, the city of North Battleford implemented a winter water plan, which asks people not to water gardens or wash vehicles. Car washes and laundromats were asked to close. Ferris said the water supply from the ground water plant is more limited in the summer months due to the typically heavier demand.
Downstream, Prince Albert is primarily reliant on the river for its water supply. Ferris said city officials held a planning meeting Friday afternoon. He said by using storm water retention ponds and reactivating existing treated water reservoirs, P.A. would have a seven-day supply of water without using the river.
He also said the agency was talking with officials in North Battleford and Prince Albert about options to treat the contaminated river water should it become necessary.
Ferris said the oil was not in one continuous plume.
“As a plume tends to move down a river it tends to spread out and get hung up on the shoreline,” he explained, adding, “So the farther down you move downstream, the longer the duration of any plume passing by a given point because of the dispersal and, from motion of the river, different parts of the river, water in the centre moves faster than water at the edges. So it kind of gets spread out.”
Ferris said the river level is at a peak flow, which could be good or bad.
“There are some concerns that upstream as material gets hung up on the shoreline, as that sort of sluffs off and gets resuspended into the water of the river, that it becomes more difficult to predict,” he said.
Kotyk was unable to estimate just how much of the oil could be recaptured. He couldn’t recall a river spill of similar magnitude to compare this incident to.
An official with the Economy ministry said Husky was focused on cleaning up and recapturing the spilled oil, and was not yet looking at the cause or extent of the ruptured pipeline. He said the leak was first detected by a pressure monitoring system.