Cleanup underway after petroleum spill at Gleniffer Lake

Alberta’s energy watchdog now says that an “unconfirmed volume of hydrocarbons” from a pipeline has been released into Jackson Creek, a tributary of the Red Deer River, upstream of the Gleniffer Lake reservoir, about 60 kilometres southwest from the City of Red Deer.

GLENIFFER LAKE — More than 60 people had gathered by noon Friday at Gleniffer Lake where a spill of up to 3,000 barrels of light crude oil had spilled into waterways leading to the lake.

Alberta’s energy watchdog reports that an “unconfirmed volume of hydrocarbons” from a pipeline has been released into a tributary of the Red Deer River at the mouth of Gleniffer Lake.

The crowd of mostly energy workers, energy regulators and cleanup crews were spotted in an area where boats were loaded at the lake. About a dozen portable toilets were being erected nearby.

Media were being prevented from accessing the lake area where the spill had flowed. An oily residue with a strong petroleum odour was noted at the Garrington Bridge over the Red Deer River.

Energy Resources Conservation Board spokesman Bob Curran said the pipeline has been shut in and emergency crews are on site.

Curran said his agency will investigate the spill, but cannot comment on quantities or other details since those facts will be part of the investigation.

Cleanup is being handled by the pipeline operator, Calgary-based Plains Midstream Canada.

Plains Midstream issued a press statement on Friday morning saying the pipeline, which was not in use, had released about 3,000 barrels of light sour crude into Jackson Creek, which runs into the Red Deer River a few kilometres north of Sundre upstream of the Gleniffer Lake reservoir.

Plains Midstream was notified of the spill at 9:40 p.m. on Thursday by the Sundre Petroleum Operators Group, a local organization created to open communications between industry and area residents in areas of mutual concern.

In its press release, Plains Midstream says it is working closely with Alberta Health Services, the Energy Resources Conservation Board and Alberta Environment and sustainable Resources to clean up the spill and monitor local air and water quality.

More than 60 people had gathered at Gleniffer Lake by noon Friday where a command post had been set up. Boats were being put in the water and a dozen portable toilets were being installed nearby.

The spill will have a strong petroleum odour, but the odour does not pose a health or safety risk, said the press statement.

Retired oilfield engineer Don Bester, president of the Alberta Surface Rights Group, said he was given reports early Friday morning that a substance smelling of oilfield condensate had flowed downriver and into the lake.

Helicopters and cleanup equipment could be seen Friday morning in same area in which a spill was reported earlier this year during a fracking operation, when fluids from a well bore entered a neighbouring oilwell.

Rob Swartz, a member of the surface rights group, said he saw the slick near the Garrington Bridge.

“We’ve been predicting this sort of thing for a long time,” he said. “With the aging infrastructure here, it’s quite a mess.”

Another group member, Glenn Norman, blamed regulators. “There’s such a lack of regulation and consequences when companies do these things they send a letter that it won’t happen again, and that’s basically the consequence.”

The spill does not pose a problem for water users in Red Deer so far, said Leslie Chivers, employed in the city’s communications and strategic planning office.

Chivers said the city had been made aware of the spill and is monitoring developments. Residents are advised to visit for updates.

The City of Lacombe has also responded to news of the spill, stating that it is co-ordinating with the City of Red Deer, which produces its drinking water.

Representatives from Plains Midstream are meeting with reporters at 2 p.m. today.

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