Prince Albert’s back-up plan to provide water for residents using two pipelines, has now entered a critical stage.
Sam Ferris, an official with the Water Security Agency, said in a media update Saturday July 30, since late Friday night, water from the Little Red River has started flowing from the 5.5 km pipeline into the city’s water treatment facility. A city press release, sent out late Saturday, explained the water is going to the city's sediment basins for pre-treatment.
“That water, and water from Anglin lake, as well as upstream near Anglin Lake, as well as water from the South Saskatchewan River is being tested now as a means to be able to adapt to the treatment process, to handle that new raw water quality, as soon as possible," Ferris said.
He said testing will be ongoing through Saturday. He did not estimate when the water will be useable.
He added the city is still relying on its replenished storm retention pond, which he said is at about 60 per cent according to the city’s last estimate on Friday.
Duane McKay, with the Ministry of Government Relations said due to communication problems, the other pipeline from the South Saskatchewan River had some delays leading up to the weekend, but start-up procedures have begun.
“There was a problem with radio communications. We have installed an additional radio site, with our public safety telecommunications network and supplied radio communication to the operator of that pipeline to ensure that all of their people from one end of that, down in the river valley to the city, can speak,” he said.
He said the pumps on the pipeline are about two kilometres apart and have to be started up in sequence, adding communication is “absolutely critical”.
“I’ve listened to the radio this morning and the pumps are starting to run and they are starting in sequence to move that (water) up and hopefully later today, all pumps will be moving water and that will significantly reduce any risk to the city of P.A.,” he said.
City staff said the pipeline is now being tested for pressure, and residents will be notified when it is fully operational.
The city is asking residents to keep a distance of three metres away from the pipeline. The city has taken special precautions and covered sections of the pipeline on River St. E. that can be safely driven over.
Rural Water Supply
McKay said four communities remain under state-of-emergency status including RM of Prince Albert, the City of Prince Albert, the RM of Buckland and Muskoday First Nation.
McKay said rural water lines in the RM’s of Prince Albert and Buckland both have their reservoirs established and potable water is being provided in tanks, from communities throughout western Canada.
“The rural water network in the RM of Prince Albert was set up yesterday. They installed reservoirs and reversed the pumping process in that system and as of last night, all homes that are on that network, with the exception of Muskoday, have water flowing into their homes,” he said, adding the water was still under a drinking water advisory.
He said Muskoday First Nations’ water supply was affected by a power outage in Wakaw and One Arrow First Nation, which has caused the two locations to be under a boil water advisory.
Muskoday First Nation has a day-and-a-half of water in their reserves, so McKay said there will be enough time to reroute, where they will get water.
Clean-up Efforts in Maidstone
Crews excavating at the scene of the leak, on the riverbank northwest of Maidstone, found the source of the leak between two and three metres beneath the surface Friday.
Laurie Pushor, Deputy Minister of the Economy, said there are two pipelines – one 16 inches in diameter which carries crude oil north to south, and an eight-inch line carrying diluent north. The failure was found in the crude line, three to four metres from where the oil reached the surface. Pushor explained oil travelled within the lining of the pipeline, before escaping to the surface.
He said crews are working on containment vessels so that no more crude is released while work goes on at the site, which includes purging any remaining oil and then removing the damaged section.
Wes Kotyk, an official with the ministry of Environment, said the preliminary cleanup is happening at a pace of about two kilometres per day, with about six kilometres done so far. He said an early survey shows the level of contamination on the shore decreases, and is visibly less past the Highway 21 bridge.
Thirty-three animals are confirmed dead as a result of the oil leak.
-with files from Geoff Smith
On twitter: @julietkadzviti
Editor's note: This story was updated at 5:30 p.m. on July 30 to include information from a city of Prince Albert release.
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