Bonavista Energy settles with Alberta family over contaminated farm
by Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
A toxic chemical used to treat sour gas leached into the soil, contaminated the well water, destroyed milk production and caused health problems
EDSON, Alta.—An Alberta farm family has reached a settlement with Bonavista Energy that tainted their land with chemicals.
The company has also been ordered by the Alberta Energy Regulator to begin extensive soil and groundwater remediation for the Saken dairy farm near Edson.
“Ronald Saken, Lonni Saken and Bonavista Energy Corp. have been diligently working together to address that impact and have reached an agreement that is acceptable to both parties,” said a statement from the Saken’s lawyer, Keith Wilson, on Nov. 14.
“This has been a difficult situation and the parties are pleased to resolve the matter between them.”
The fight began in 2014 when the Sakens began having issues with the water on their farm, which has been in the family since 1929. The problem was traced to a nearby gas plant, which had been purchased in 2010 by Bonavista.
Bonavista’s own experts found that during the previous ownership, a toxic chemical used in treating sour gas had leached into the soil. That contaminated well water and caused a dramatic loss in milk production as well as health problems in people and cattle.
The Sakens argued the contamination destroyed their farm’s value. Plans to bring their son into the operation and expand the farm were cancelled.
Bonavista drilled a new well, but that water was highly alkaline. The energy regulator ordered the company to truck enough water to the farm for the family and the dairy operation.
The company took the regulator to court and the Sakens filed their own suit, which sought to have their farm declared a contaminated site.
Monday’s settlement ends both legal actions. Details of any financial settlement were not released.
Bonavista, however, is obliged to undertake extensive cleanup operations. The company has until 2020 to remediate all contaminated soil on the farm. Such cleanup usually means removing it and replacing it with fresh soil.
It must also come up with a way to fix the groundwater problems by the end of April. The water must be restored to its previous quality by September 2031.
Wilson said the Sakens will continue to receive trucked water until the end of the month.
The Sakens remain on the land and hope to stay there, Wilson added.
“The Sakens are pleased.”