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Prince Albert chapter holds public forum on Husky Oil spill in North Saskatchewan River

Ricardo Segovia of E-Tech International conducts sediment tests in the North Saskatchewan River following the Husky Oil spill. Photo by Resurgence Environmental.

The Council of Canadians Prince Albert chapter held a public forum last night on the Husky Oil spill in the North Saskatchewan River.

In its outreach for the event, the chapter posted, “Interested in the results of an independent assessment of the Husky Oil Spill? Discover them Thursday Sept. 22 at 7 pm at the John M. Cuelenaere Library Auditorium for a presentation by Ricardo Segovia, a hydrogeologist with E-Tech International and Resurgence Environmental.”

About 60 people were in attendance for last night’s presentation. A Facebook video of the forum can be viewed here.

The Husky oil spill this summer meant that the drinking water supply for more than 70,600 people – in North Battleford, Prince Albert, Melfort, and the Muskoday First Nation (also known as the James Smith Cree Nation) – was compromised. The three cities had to shut off their water plant intakes and secure alternate sources of drinking water, while the Muskoday First Nation had to truck in its water. Segovia says, “This is going to cause long-term problems. You can’t go back to the way things were before … because there’s that chance that (contaminants) can be stirred up from the sediments, you have to be constantly monitoring those water intakes for the next several years at least.”

This morning, CBC reports, “A new water sample from the North Saskatchewan River has exceeded drinking water guidelines. The water sample, taken near Prince Albert, Sask. found Benzo(a)Pyrene, a carcinogen that can be found in everything from car exhaust to coal tar. …The tests also showed two new samples that exceeded aquatic life guidelines, bringing the number to 22. As well, 28 more samples of sediment were found to exceed guidelines. Those guidelines are meant to protect organisms that live on the bottom of the river, and are an integral part of the aquatic food chain.”

But that article also notes, “Last week, the Water Security Agency (WSA) gave North Battleford and Prince Albert permission to start drawing drinking water from the North Saskatchewan River once again. The WSA said the new contaminated water test will not impact plans to get the plants up and running again.” Remarkably, an agency spokesperson says, “[The oil] is attaching to sediments. So, the water treatment plant can efficiently remove the oil because it’s attaching to the sediments and essentially doing what the plant is designed to do.”

Yesterday, Council of Canadians organizer Diane Connors wrote in her blog Husky Oil Spill: Two Months Since the Pipe Burst about a large gathering that took place on Sunday (September 18) in Saskatoon to highlight ongoing concerns about the river and water protection. That event – organized Kisaskatchewan Water Alliance Network (the Council of Canadians is a member of this network formed after the Husky spill) – featured Segovia, well-known environmental activist David Suzuki, Metis artist Christi Belcourt, Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak and others.

And in an op-ed published earlier this month in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix and numerous other newspapers, Council of Canadians Board member Rick Sawa and Renewable Power activist Jack Jensen highlighted the ongoing risks to waterways from pipelines both in Saskatchewan and across the country.

They write, “While [Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall] has taken some constructive measures to respond to the spill, he is backing  TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline proposal — a project whose purpose is to enable expansion of oilsands production. This pipeline would bring the risk of diluted bitumen spillage to nearly 3000 waterways, including seven in Saskatchewan, as well as the Great Sand Hills ecological reserve, Carry the Kettle First Nation and Regina’s Harbour Landing neighbourhood. It’s long past time for a rethink, and for a just transition to a clean economy.”

Further reading
Council-supported study finds 14-hour delay amplified oil spill damage to North Saskatchewan River (September 3, 2016)