Report critical of Husky response to spill

By Geoff Smith
September 2, 2016 - 2:51pm

An independent study of the Husky oil spill says the company delayed response and was not transparent after thousands of litres of crude dumped into the North Saskatchewan River. But the company says the report contains a number of errors.

The assessment was conducted by Utah-based non-profit group E-Tech International and Resurgence Environmental, on behalf of several groups including Idle No More, the Council of Canadians, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and the Public Service Alliance of Canada. In the report, assessors said a more immediate response would have kept the oil from travelling as far as it did.

Hydrogeologist Ricardo Segovia, one of the report's authors, said the effects of an oil spill in Kalamazoo, Mich. in 2010 showed the need for an immediate response.

“The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) said that the submerged portion of the oil needs to be attacked aggressively and immediately. Because they saw it doesn’t take long for the oil to start submerging, and some of it ends up at the bottom of the river as well in the sediments,” Segovia said.

He explained it requires more than just booms that capture oil on the surface, but special cages that can absorb contaminants in the water column.

The report called for dredging of the river bottom, but only after an ecological impact analysis.

Segovia also said the initial response should have included air quality monitoring and warnings along with protection for workers, due to hazardous chemicals evaporating, particularly during the first 48 hours following the leak.

In an e-mailed response, Husky spokesperson Mel Duvall said the basic errors contained in the report include a contention that Husky’s team is only sampling water and not sediment. He said Husky took more than 1,300 sediment samples for testing in addition to 4,500 water samples.

“Our response was immediate upon discovery of the leak and was informed by the responsible provincial and federal regulators as well as the foremost scientists and experts in the field,” Duvall said. “It also states that 250,000 litres of oil was spilled into the river, when in fact, almost 50 per cent of the spill volume was contained on land and never reached the river.”

Duvall said air quality monitoring was also completed and raw testing data was shared with municipalities such as North Battleford. The breakdown was also provided in a risk assessment report now being reviewed by the regulators.

Segovia said the data should be made available to the public.

 

Geoff Smith is battlefordsNOW's News Director, business and agriculture reporter. He can be reached at geoff.smith@jpbg.ca or tweet him @smithco.  

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