PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – Saskatchewan’s third-largest city was expecting to have alternate sources of water on the weekend to help deal with an oil spill that has tainted the river it usually draws from.
Prince Albert shut down its intake from the North Saskatchewan River on Monday to protect its treatment plant and the public after oil from a Husky Energy (TSX:HSE) pipeline breach upstream reached the city.
City crews have set up pumps and run a giant 30-kilometre-long hose from the treatment plant to tap the South Saskatchewan River. There’s also a shorter line to the Little Red River.
Government officials said treated water will start flowing to the community once the lines are charged and tested.
“Hopefully it will come into production in the next day or so,” Duane McKay, Saskatchewan’s commissioner of emergency management, said Friday.
“We are feeling fairly confident that, not withstanding some other event that complicates this further, the water systems will come on as predicted.”
Prince Albert has been taking water from storm retention ponds, which were topped up Thursday by a rain storm.
A similar water line was being planned between the town of Battleford’s treatment plant and the city of North Battleford across the river valley.
McKay said the temporary water sources may be needed for days, weeks or even longer until the North Saskatchewan River is deemed safe and communities can reopen the intake valves to their treatment plants.
The province estimates that the shutdowns due to the Husky spill have affected the water supply to about 62,000 people in the area.
Husky has said it noticed pressure “anomalies” in part of its pipeline near Maidstone, Sask., at 8 p.m. on July 20. The company said it detected a spill of up to 250,000 litres of oil mixed with a lighter hydrocarbon, called a diluent, at 10 a.m. the next day and notified the province.
The spill occurred about 300 metres from the south shore of the North Saskatchewan River. The underground pipeline was immediately shut down and work began to dig it up so the investigation into the cause of the spill could begin.
The government said it expects Husky to submit a full report into what happened within 90 days of the pipeline breach.
Prince Albert is doing what it can to keep life normal during the water shortage. The Prince Albert Exhibition summer fair is to go ahead as scheduled next week including a parade, rides, horse races and livestock shows.
The only changes are that exhibitors must bring in a water supply for horses and livestock.
The city plans to post water conservation reminder notices throughout the fair grounds to remind people to limit their usage.
“They are well aware of the water conservation required by the city and we appreciate the efforts of the association to have non-potable water delivered so the summer fair can proceed during this challenging time,” city manager Jim Toye said in a release.
— By John Cotter in Edmonton