A massive wastewater spill 20 km from the hamlet of Zama City in northern Alberta will not affect the Hay River downstream.
That’s the assessment of Fire Chief Ross Potter, the co-ordinator for the Town of Hay River’s Emergency Measures Organization.
After consulting the province’s environmental support and emergency response team, Potter said the 9.5-million-litre spill had been contained about two kilometres from the original site and that, while there had been some chloride present in the tested water, the levels were less than a third of the acceptable rate of 147 parts per million on June 13.
“There is currently no danger of contamination in the Hay River,” Potter told The Hub on June 14. “The spill happened on land and was contained before it got to the Zama River.”
The Zama River, about 100 km south of the NWT/Alberta border, feeds into the Hay River.
According to Texas-based Apache Canada, the produced water spilled from its pipeline had only trace amounts of oil.
A news release on the company’s website states that Apache Canada reported the spill on June 1 and that there is no danger to the public.
Another Apache Canada news release explains that, in oil drilling operations, liquid containing naturally occurring oil, gas, non-potable water, salt and other minerals is brought to the surface, treated to remove the oil and then re-injected into the ground. The company stated that it remains uncertain what caused this “produced water” spill, but that an independent third-party investigation has been ordered.
While Alberta-based government organizations have been monitoring the levels of minerals and chemicals in the water around the spill, neither the federal government nor the GNWT saw a need to test waters north of the border as of June 14.
“EC (Environment Canada) enforces the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act,” stated Mark Johnson, a spokesperson for the department in an email on June 13. “At this time, there is no evidence that a deleterious substance has entered fish-bearing waters. Accordingly, the federal Fisheries Act does not apply. EC continues to monitor the situation.”
The GNWT’s Department of Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) responded to queries about testing water in the territory in an email saying the spill was in Alberta’s jurisdiction alone.
“All testing for the Zama spill is being done in Alberta,” wrote Judy McLinton, manager of public affairs and communication for ENR. “We continue to get updates on the situation.”
— Sarah Ladik