The company dealing with an oil spill on the Red Deer River has estimated it will spend upwards of $53 million with cleanup and remediation activities.
The multimillion-dollar cost was reported in the Aug. 9 Plains All American quarterly report — a subsidiary of Plains Midstream Canada.
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 Plains Midstream Canada rangeland pipeline about one km north of Sundre.
“This estimate considers our prior experience in environmental investigation and remediation matters, as well as available data from, and in consultation with, our environmental specialists,” the report reads.
The company states that the remediation costs may be more than estimated but it has “adequate reserves for all probable and reasonably estimated costs.”
“Although we believe that our efforts to enhance our leak prevention and detection capabilities have produced positive results, we have experienced (and likely will experience future) releases of hydrocarbon products into the environment from our pipeline and storage operations.
“The inclusion of additional miles of pipe in our operations may result in an increase in the absolute number of releases company-wide compared to prior periods,” the report continues.
“They’ve got to be learning some lessons, that a pipeline break in a river is unbelievably costly,” Mountain View County Councillor Paddy Munro said.
Munro’s comments come after his observations from weekly river tours between the Garrington Bridge and upstream to the spill site north of Sundre.
For over three weeks, personnel have been trying to expose the faulty section of the pipe and the process is proving difficult, Munro said.
“The first thing they did was put a gravel dam around the pipe and they had a whole bunch of pumps out there,” he said.
A week later, workers were trying to hammer six-metre steel casings around the pipe. The casings have inter-locking sections that would dam the river so welders could patch the pipe. The steel is much like that used for bridges, Munro said.
“So when they pull it from the river, there is a limited chance that a 47-year-old pipe is going to break and leak again,” he explained.
The company reports that the “cleanup has been completed at approximately half of the river sites” and that it will “work with regulators to inspect cleaned sites to ensure environmental standards.”
“But what does cleaned up mean?” asked Munro. “Is it just the surface? Has it seeped into the gravel?
“You have to remember that at the peak of its flood, the river could have been a half of a mile wide,” he said.
By last month, the river had receded about one and a half metres since the spill and a line of residual oil could still be seen in the backwaters, marking how high the river was at the time of the spill.
Munro said Mountain View County council will meet with Plains Midstream Canada president David Duckett at the end of the month. They will be discussing the cleanup and how landowners in the area have been treated.
“These people were impacted and Plains will not openly offer any kind of compensation, that doesn’t seem right.”
Earlier, Stephen Bart, vice-president of crude oil operations for Plains Midstream Canada, said their typical inspection frequency “is in the neighbourhood” of every three to five years. The pipeline, built in 1966, was last inspected in 2009.
Plains was also put to task last week after gardeners in north Edmonton challenged its plans to start construction on a pipeline that would have destroyed at least a third of a well-established community garden.
The company now says it will now wait until Oct. 1, giving the group enough time to harvest their vegetables.
The Advocate was unable to contact a spokesperson for Plains Midstream Canada on Monday but information containing the quarterly report was sent via email.