Farmers still counting losses in oil spill

SUNDRE — A Sundre area farmer feels his hands are tied following a Plains Midstream Canada pipeline leak.

SUNDRE — A Sundre area farmer feels his hands are tied following a Plains Midstream Canada pipeline leak.

Dennis Overguard, 60, is just one landowner who is butting heads with the company in the wake of the Red Deer River oil spill.

On June 7, up to 3,000 barrels (475,000 litres) of light sour crude oil was released into the Red Deer River from Plains Midstream Canada pipeline about one km north of Sundre.

Overguard and his family run a ranch 10.5 kms downstream from the Red Deer River and about 12 kms north of Sundre.

He says approximately 250 acres of his land for pasturing 500 head of cattle is now unusable.

“The way the river was flooding in June and the way the currents were swirling and taking all the backwaters, the oil stayed on top and flooded along our place,” he said.

The family’s cattle are now residing on hay land.

But to make matters worse, Overguard and his wife Joanne are staying at a bed and breakfast as he recuperates from a heart attack he suffered earlier in May. He says the fumes and contamination near his home are too much for him to take.

Plains Midstream Canada personnel continue to access his land but without an access agreement and Overguard feels they are trespassing.

He says the company contacted him last week with an agreement that would allow unlimited access to his property.

Much like other landowners, the Overguards continue to receive no form or very little compensation.

Overguard believes he has lost about $6 million in damages from a reduction in property value and loss of land from his multi-million dollar ranching operation.

“There is a total lack of respect for landowners,” he said.

Meanwhile the Sundre community came together on Monday to show support for the tourism industry with a rally to raise the area’s profile on Monday.

The event was organized by the Sundre and District Chamber of Commerce and Wild Rose riding Conservative MP Blake Richards.

At the end of June, chamber president Sherry Tytkanych had noted that businesses were contacting them because their clients were cancelling reservations to campsites and other activities such as whitewater rafting and fishing.

Richards said that there has been a misunderstanding and the area has the same recreational pursuits. He wouldn’t say if Plains Midstream Canada should bare some financial burden to help promote the tourism industry.

Officials from Plains Midstream Canada were not present at the rally.

On Friday the company reported that 275 personnel were on site maintaining the booms, cutting and bagging vegetation, picking up shoreline debris, skimming oil and replacing absorbent pads.

“We understand our continued clean-up operations in the area may cause some disturbance to residents,” the Plains update stated.

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