ON THE RED DEER RIVER — Despite almost a month of cleanup efforts, significant oil deposits still blanket channels and tributaries after a pipeline ruptured underneath the Red Deer River.
“The more we work, the more we find,” said a worker who was mopping up oil by hand with an absorbent pad along the Red Deer River shoreline on Tuesday.
The task is proving difficult as the river has receded about one and a half metres since the spill. A line of residual oil can still be seen in the backwaters, marking how high the river was at the time of the spill.
Mountain View County councillor Paddy Munro took the Advocate for a river tour on Tuesday between the Garrington Bridge and upstream to the spill site north of Sundre.
Numerous workers were seen cleaning up the mess.
On June 7, up to 3,000 barrels (475,000 litres) of light sour crude oil was released into the Red Deer River from a ruptured Plains Midstream pipeline about one km north of Sundre.
“The issue is that it (the oil) is way back in the channels,” Munro said. “I think they have identified 30 or 40 sites where it is like that.”
An odour can still be detected along the channels and tributaries where mini booms have been set up. A swath of oil is still collecting at the booms near the original spill site north of Sundre. Peat moss has been spread over some of the oil deposits along the channels.
“My concern is that the oil is spread out all over the flood plain so it’s going to be extremely difficult to get it all cleaned up,” Munro said.
“When you go down the main river, you only really see the oil if there is a high bank but the oil has spread over huge areas.
“Can they even clean it all up? I’m not sure if they can.”
Plains reports that 317 cleanup personnel are working at nine locations and continue to monitor booms, cut and bag vegetation and remove woody debris.
“One of my big concerns is that we have to get our regulator, the ERCB (Energy Resources Conservation Board) to actually start functioning as a regulator,” Munro said.
“They have to be tough enough to enforce the regulations and when you have pipe that is 46 years old, you really need to monitor it.”
Cleanup efforts, along with any mention of the oil spill, has been removed from the www.plainsmidstream.com main page. Instead, residents are encouraged to visit a separate website, www.plainsresponds.com, for information updates.