Saskatchewan pipeline leak reaction criticized as too slow by Greenpeace

CALGARY _ An environmental group says it’s “astonishing” that the Saskatchewan government waited three days to announce a 200,000-litre pipeline oil spill had fouled agricultural land on the Ocean Man First Nation.

“The secrecy around pipeline spills in Saskatchewan is astonishing,” said Keith Stewart, head of Greenpeace Canada’s climate and energy campaign, in an email on Tuesday.

“First the government waits three days to announce it, then the company will neither confirm nor deny that it’s their oil. More worrisome, however, is that once again pipeline spill detection technology and systems failed, leaving it up to community members to smell and see the oil before action is taken.”

Chief Connie Big Eagle said a band member who worked in the oil industry detected the smell of crude oil days before the leak was discovered southeast of Regina.

She said the man became suspicious about the odour and went looking for the source, tracking it down and reporting it to officials last Friday.

Government officials confirmed the spill about 10 kilometres north of the southeast Saskatchewan town of Stoughton on Monday.

It said about 170,000 litres have been recovered in a cleanup being handled by Calgary-based Tundra Energy Marketing Ltd.

In a statement on its website dated Monday, TEML says it’s leading the cleaning process even though it’s not clear whose oil has been spilled.

“The source of the oil has not yet been determined, but as TEML owns a pipeline adjacent to the release, it has taken the lead in cleaning up the released oil,” it says.

It says it immediately notified the government and residents upon discovery of the leak and began removing surface oil with vacuum trucks.

TEML is a subsidiary of James Richardson & Sons, Ltd., of Winnipeg. It did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

A Saskatchewan pipeline owned by Calgary-based Husky Energy Inc. (TSX:HSE) burst and leaked about 225,000 litres of heavy crude oil and diluent into the North Saskatchewan River last July.

The leak forced the cities of North Battleford, Prince Albert and Melfort to shut off their water intakes from the river and find other water sources for almost two months.

Husky said it spent about $90 million responding to the spill, which it said was caused by shifting ground.