Spill déjà vu for area residents

SUNDRE — For Wayne Johnston it was the worst kind of déjà vu. Four years after a pipeline broke, sending oil gushing into the Red Deer River upstream of his land, it happened again on Thursday.

SUNDRE — For Wayne Johnston it was the worst kind of déjà vu.

Four years after a pipeline broke, sending oil gushing into the Red Deer River upstream of his land, it happened again on Thursday.

This time, up to 3,000 barrels of oil may have spilled from the Plains Midstream Canada pipeline that crosses the river near the farmer’s home about six km north of Sundre.

Johnston and his wife Ila knew something was wrong about 6:35 p.m. on Thursday evening when they got a toxic whiff of crude oil at their home overlooking the scenic river valley.

“It was so strong you can’t think just after getting hit,” said Johnston. They immediately called it in to the Sundre Petroleum Operators Group, a local group of industry and community representatives.

Johnston said his wife was so affected by the oil stench he took her to hospital as a precaution. For now, Ila, who is particularly sensitive to oilpatch emissions, is staying with a sister a few kilometres away.

Even the family pets have been affected by the wafts of foul odour. They could barely rouse their cat last night and their dog Tip can’t settle down.

“He’s been hyper like that ever since (the spill),” he said.

It could have been worse. The spill in June 2008 that dumped an estimated 200 barrels of oil in the river killed four of his cows.

The scale of the latest damage becomes clear in a small inlet off the river where oil lies in a thick black and light brown scum on the surface. Reeds and other vegetation are coated in a slick black layer of oil left behind as water levels dropped overnight. The acrid smell induced headaches and sore throats in those standing nearby.

Johnston remembers a time when this was a popular fishing spot. “You could catch any amount of fish here.

“It will never, ever be the same.”

Glenn Norman, a member of the Alberta Surface Rights Group, also grimly surveyed the damage at the spot.

“This whole pond is dead. There won’t even be any insects alive in that.”

What angers him most is that these kinds of pipeline failures are so preventable.

“There’s no damn need for it. The technology is there to do it properly.”

Johnston agreed something must be done.

“There are so many pipelines and they’re rotten and everything else,” he said. “The industry doesn’t care.

“They should be protecting these lines better. They don’t go deep enough and back far enough (from the river).”

A short distance downstream Burke Masse was inspecting the damage near the Garrington Bridge. An oily strip one to two metres wide was left on the gravel, marking the previous evening’s high water mark.

Masse could smell the oil last night from his home about three km from the river. “I knew there was something going on right away.

“I knew it wasn’t sour. I knew it was crude oil.”

He suspects an old pipeline may have eroded. Some landowners will now face a big mess.

“If the river was flowing over their land it will leave a deposit.”

“And they’re not going to be like the Clampetts either,” he said, referring to family of TV’s Beverly Hillbillies fame, who got rich when they struck oil on their land.


Just Posted

City of Red Deer invests $50,000 in CFR opening ceremony

Several councillors warn it’s a one-time deal

Updated: Trial begins for woman accused of drunk driving in fatal collision

An eyewitness to a fatal collision near Red Deer described the scene… Continue reading

Red Deer city councillor proposes stricter rules for stray shopping carts and an anti-theft bike registry

Coun. Buck Buchanan’s Notices of Motion to be discussed by council on Oct. 1

Red Deer MP pleased Conservative ranks keep growing

Frustration with pipelines continue

UPDATED: Stretching for a good cause at Central Alberta Yogathon in Red Deer

Funds raised go to Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre

Canada bans use of trans fats in food products

OTTAWA — Canada’s ban on the main source of artificial trans fats… Continue reading

Feds, Indigenous groups agree on spending plans for $1.7 billion for child care

OTTAWA — Three national Indigenous organizations will receive a combined $1.7 billion… Continue reading

Abdelrazik torture lawsuit delay would be unconscionable, his lawyer tells judge

OTTAWA — A government lawyer is making a last-minute plea to delay… Continue reading

Conservatives wouldn’t ‘lecture’ U.S. in trade talks: House leader

OTTAWA — Conservative House leader Candice Bergen says her party wouldn’t lecture… Continue reading

Privacy watchdogs call for more oversight over political parties

OTTAWA — Privacy watchdogs from across the country are collectively calling on… Continue reading

‘I am really upset:’ Video shows Trudeau meeting with Saskatchewan chiefs

SASKATOON — A video posted online shows Prime Minister Justin Trudeau telling… Continue reading

Pipeline plan coming by end of month, possibly guided by a former judge

OTTAWA — A senior federal source says the Liberals are considering hiring… Continue reading

Canadian home sales rise by 0.9 per cent between July and August: CREA

OTTAWA — The Canadian Real Estate Association says home sales rose by… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month