Workers with the aid of a trackhoe clean up contaminated soil from a pipeline spill just north of Township Road 38-4 and west of Freedom Road in the Joffre area Thursday. Nearly 2

‘Aggressive’ cleanup underway at site of contaminated water spill

The cleanup continues on a contaminated water spill east of Red Deer — but questions remain about why the Penn West Exploration pipeline broke on Tuesday.

The cleanup continues on a contaminated water spill east of Red Deer — but questions remain about why the Penn West Exploration pipeline broke on Tuesday.

Up to 20 workers continued on Thursday to use vacuum trucks to suck up water from a farmer’s canola field at the spill site near Joffre.

“They are working aggressively,” said Greg Moffatt, Penn West’s manager of government and industry relations.

He added that more than a third of the 300,000-litre spill, or about 120,000 litres, has been recovered so far. The surface area of the spill was estimated to cover about 6,000 square metres of the field.

Moffatt expects the vacuum trucks will be out there for a few more days. Penn West then intends to have soil at the site tested.

Moffatt said his Calgary-based company intends to take whatever measures are needed — including removing and replacing some earth — to reclaim the affected farmland.

He maintained there are hardly any hydrocarbons in the water that was naturally present in an oil formation. It had been moved along the pipeline for disposal, and was slated to be reinjected into a non-producing well.

The company also tested the leaked liquid and found it to be not too saline.

“No spill is a good spill, but this one should be relatively easy to mitigate,” said Moffatt.

The full extent of the environmental damage has not yet been assessed by Penn West or the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board, which is investigating.

Moffatt said the company also still needs to dig down to examine the pipeline to determine what caused the leak.

“Once the (water) pool is removed we will take soil samples and then return the land to its pre-spill state.”

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