The ripple effects of a recent oil spill in the North Saskatchewan River are being felt by thousands of people.
Shelley Gordon owns 6th Avenue Car Wash in Prince Albert. On Tuesday, she said she’s already lost thousands of dollars in estimated revenue. “This is our busy time of year. This is when, as a small business owner, you make your money in the carwash business,” she said.
About 200,000 to 250,000 litres are believed to have leaked – the equivalent of two rail tank cars – from a Husky Energy pipeline near Maidstone, Sask. on Thursday. The province reported the water supplies of close to 70,000 people have been affected so far and that the slick has travelled about 370 kilometres.
Prince Albert and North Battleford, both downstream from the leak site, stopped drawing water from the river. A boil water advisory was also issued in nearby Melfort, Sask. as that community switched to a secondary water source.
— JT Marshall (@jtmarshallCKOM) July 26, 2016
Officials said the oily plume reached Prince Albert, a city of 35,000 people, on Monday. Residents in the area were urged to conserve water and not use that part of the river for recreation. Hospitals were reportedly looking at alternate water supplies.
For Gordon’s privately-owner business, the normally lucrative summer season makes up for slower times in January and February.
“I have 20 employees that now don’t really know where their job sits, and (I’m) trying to provide them reassurance this problem will be rectified as early as possible,” she said.
The business owner said she spoke with Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne Tuesday morning, and was reassured the carwash would be back open once a temporary water line is put in place.
“So it won’t be weeks, it will be days,” Gordon said, adding most customers have been understanding about the situation.
Work is expected to be complete Wednesday on the temporary pipeline, which will stretch 30 kilometres to draw water from the South Saskatchewan River.
Calgary-based Husky, which is controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing, has apologized.
“We realize this has been a very challenging time for everybody, with the spill impacting people, the environment and local businesses,” said Al Pate, a Husky vice-president overseeing the company’s response.
“We’re deeply sorry this has happened. We accept full responsibility for the event and for the cleanup and we will make things right.”
Gordon has already been in touch with Husky’s claims department for possible compensation for lost revenue.
“But it could be a long time coming,” she said.
People told to limit water activities
Provincial officials told people Tuesday to limit recreational activities in the North Saskatchewan River after the oil spill. People are advised not to consume fish caught in the river, or allow pets and livestock in the water.
The province also warned swimming, water sports and other activities where people come in direct contact with the water are not advised.
The province said boating and catch-and-release fishing should not pose a threat to personal health.
CKOM reporter JT Marshall is in Prince Albert. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.