PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – Part of the pipeline involved in the Husky Energy oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River has been taken for testing.
Laurie Pushor, deputy minister of the economy in Saskatchewan, says provincial officials supervised as the line was purged, cut and capped and the segment in question removed. It has been taken to a third-party lab for analysis, he said.
Pushor won’t speculate on what caused the rupture, pending the outcome of investigations by Husky and the province.
“We will do all the thorough analysis necessary and be completely transparent with our findings when the work is fully completed,” Pushor said in a conference call Thursday with media.
The pipeline leak detected July 21 spilled up to 250,000 litres of oil mixed with a lighter hydrocarbon into the river near Maidstone.
Pushor noted that the government has said it expects Husky to submit a full report within 90 days of the pipeline breach.
“We want to be and are monitoring all of their activity and supervising it,” he added.
Pushor said the province hopes to make its findings public “very quickly” after it receives Husky’s final report. He said Husky is being co-operative.
Meanwhile, a report released Thursday said hydrocarbons at levels higher than guidelines set for freshwater aquatic life have been found in 42 water samples taken after the spill.
The results are complete from 1,400 samples taken at more than 60 locations along the river from the spill site to the city of Prince Albert, about 385 kilometres downstream.
“As a whole, these exceedances are very minor, in the low percentage range of an exceedance,” said Kelly Scribner, a toxicologist with the U.S.-based Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health.
Water sampling is ongoing.
The report says recommendations regarding the risk of oil affecting aquatic life will be coming as Husky initiates an aquatics assessment program.
Scribner suggests aquatic life could be OK because the samples with high levels of hydrocarbons have been sporadic.
“We’re seeing them on one day and then we don’t see them the following day in that same spot,” she said.
“We would need to see kind of consistent exceedances of aquatic life levels for there to be any kind of association for a long-term risk,” she also added.
As a precautionary measure, the province has issued a “do not consume” advisory for fish from the North Saskatchewan River until more information is obtained.
Three cities were forced to close their water intakes from the river after the spill. Their water treatment plants were not built to remove hydrocarbons and could be damaged by the oil.
North Battleford and Prince Albert are relying on temporary water lines to other sources. Melfort is using an old reservoir.
Premier Brad Wall has said more tests are needed before the drinking water intakes from the river can reopen.