Thursday 14 June 2012

Oil spill on the Red Deer River.

On Thursday 7 June 2012 an oil pipeline owned by Plains Midstream Canada, developed a leak that lead to 475 000 liters of sour crude oil (crude oil with a high sulphur content) spilling into Jackson Creek, a tributary of the Red Deer River near Sundre, Alberta, from where it flowed downstream into the Gleniffer Reservoir. This was a fortuitously small spill as the pipeline was not in operation at the time of the breach, so that only oil standing in the pipe was lost. It was also fortunate that the water levels in the river were high, so that the oil was swept quickly into the reservoir, where it was easier to contain.

Areal photograph of the spill on the Red Dear River, taken on 8 June 2012. Toronto Sun/Global Calgary.

This is the second spill from a Plains Midstream pipeline in Alberta in two years. In April 2011 a pipeline near the Peace River lost roughly 4.5 million liters of oil, a spill that was contained largely by a beaver dam, and which has yet to be completely cleaned up.

On 19 May 2012 a pipeline operated by Pace Oil & Gas lost about 800 000 liters of sweet crude (crude oil with a low sulphur content) near Rainbow Lake.

Politicians in Alberta are currently supporting a pipeline project by Edenbridge Northern Gateway, that will connect  Edmonton, Alberta to a new marine terminal near Kitimat in British Columbia. This will cross 669 fish-bearing rivers, causing considerable concern to Canadian environmental groups. The commitment of politicians in British Columbia is less certain, as there is widespread public opposition to the project, which is likely to grow in the light of this and any future spills.

People affected by the Red Deer River spill have complained of respiratory problems due to fumes from the oil, with at least one person being hospitalized, and a number of others forced to leave their homes. Water  from the Gleniffer Reservoir is not currently being used, with local residents relying on bottled water. Jackson Creek and the Red Deer River are both currently closed to fishermen. Larger oil-spills have been associated with cattle die-offs in the region historically.

Follow Sciency Thoughts on Facebook.