PRINCE ALBERT, Sask.—Provincial officials in Saskatchewan say a riverside city whose water supply is threatened by an oil pipeline spill is building a hose, dozens of kilometres long, to draw water from another river.
Sam Ferris with Saskatchewan’s water security agency said Prince Albert is constructing a line with irrigation pipe along the ground to a spot on the South Saskatchewan River near the Muskoday First Nation, between 20 and 30 kilometres away.
The city of more than 35,000 people has been preparing to shut its regular water intakes on the North Saskatchewan River following a spill upstream of between 200,000 and 250,000 litres of crude oil and other material at a Husky Energy Pipeline near Maidstone, Sask.
Prince Albert has a few days worth of water stored in reservoirs and has also been preparing to treat water from its stormwater retention ponds while oil from Thursday’s spill flows past.
Wes Kotyk with Saskatchewan’s environmental protection branch said officials don’t know how long that could take, since the plume of the spill has broken up and slicks can get hung up on bends and take time to move along the river.
North Battleford, which is further upstream on the river, shut off its water supply intakes and is now relying on a limited supply from wells.
“It might have to serve for some time. We don’t know how long the event will endure,” Ferris said during a media conference Sunday about the water pipeline Prince Albert is building.
“It won’t work in Saskatchewan in the winter time, I can guarantee you that.”
“I hope this is over well before then.”
Prince Albert’s city manager, Jim Toye, said the water line will be functioning later this week and will utilize 30 pumps, each with 400 horsepower.
“We understand the water situation could be as long as two months,” Toye said Sunday.
North Battleford has imposed strict water-use restrictions and Toye said Prince Albert’s council will pass its own restrictions on Monday.
The oil pipeline that leaked runs from Husky’s heavy oil operations to its facilities in Lloydminster and carries oil mixed with a lighter hydrocarbon, called a diluent, that’s added to ease the flow.
Kotyk said Sunday that three birds are confirmed to have been affected by the spill. He said Husky has established a program for recovery with the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan.
Jan Shadick of Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation said three birds were brought to them on Saturday coated in oil. She said one died and the other two are recovering.
“For me, part of the concern, is that as the oil moves, we’re going to end up finding more oiled wildlife downstream. So the potential for this to continue is certainly present,” Shadick told CJWW radio.
Bert West with the petroleum and natural gas branch of the province’s economy ministry said Saturday there’s no word yet on what caused the leak or the size of the breach.
Containment booms to capture the oil were set at five locations downstream from the spill, Kotyk said.
Kotyk said hospitals in North Battleford and Prince Albert are preparing to truck in water to replenish their own reservoirs which are typically only for emergency use.
The province also advises people to avoid recreational contact with the water where the oil plume has passed, and Kotyk said fishing in the affected parts of the river is not advisable.