Gleniffer Lake residents still waiting for answers

GLENIFFER LAKE — About 500 resort residents turned out for weekend information sessions put on by Plains Midstream Canada as the oil spill cleanup continues.

Randy Westergaard

GLENIFFER LAKE — About 500 resort residents turned out for weekend information sessions put on by Plains Midstream Canada as the oil spill cleanup continues.

Randy Westergaard, of Gleniffer Lake Resort and Country Club, said about 280 of their residents came to hear the latest on cleanup efforts at a Saturday meeting.

A similar gathering was held the same day for residents of Carefree Resort on the other side of the lake.

“The biggest question of course is when are they going to get lake access,” said Westergaard on Sunday.

Unfortunately, that is also a question with no answer yet.

And, ultimately, it will be up to the province’s regulatory bodies to make that call, said Westergaard, the resort’s development and property manager.

In its daily update for Sunday, Plains Midstream says it “remains focused on completing the clean-up as quickly as possible and providing timely data to regulatory bodies for a decision on the timing of the lake reopening.

“Plains will continue to provide updates on the timing as more information is available.”

Residents appear to be taking the incident in stride. Westergaard said the Plains update, which was not open to the media, went well and residents appreciated the company’s efforts to keep them informed.

“The biggest thing is let these guys get to work and have some patience with them.”

The question of compensation was also raised and the company has directed people to a toll-free line.

Meanwhile, Plains Midstream has been busy working to clean up the oil that reached the reservoir and has been contained by booms strung across the reservoir. Up to 3,000 barrels of light crude oil spilled into the Red Deer river from a pipeline on June 7

A peak Saturday workforce of 275 people was on site and 16 work crews were gathering, bagging and removing wood debris at eight different locations.

The water is being tested regularly with 26 samples taken on Saturday on the river, reservoir, downstream of the Dickson Dam and at two water treatment plants. Trace levels of hydrocarbons were found downstream of the containment booms, but the levels are below Alberta drinking water guidelines and do not pose a health risk, says the company.

Seventeen wildlife monitors are also continuing to identify animals, fish or birds affected by the spill. Three garter snakes, one frog and one beaver have been cleaned and released. A muskrat and a beaver were taken to the Medicine River Wildlife Centre and are recovering. One goose and one crow have been found dead. Five fish and one mouse were also collected to investigate the cause of death.

Westergaard said Plains Midstream has been doing a good job of keeping the resort and its residents informed.

If he has a gripe, it’s been some of the media reports, which have left the impression the shoreline is awash in oil, which is not the case. The oil has been contained by the booms and the shoreline near the resort is clean.

While boats are barred from the lake for now, there were none in the resort’s marina yet this season anyway. Typically, people don’t put their boats in until late June or early July when the spring runoff has subsided and the water is clear and debris-free again.

Water is trucked in every day by Plains Midstream from Sundre and Sylvan Lake to the resort’s water treatment plant and all of the resort’s attractions including its golf course, pool and tennis courts are all open as usual.

“So far, we have not been affected at all,” he said.

Resident Wayne Nalder was taking his dog Sam for a walk on Sunday around the resort and said the spill and cleanup hasn’t been an issue.

“Honestly, from my perspective, there’s nothing to cope with,” said Nalder, who doesn’t own a boat.

Residents who may be staying away because of the spill should come out to see for themselves that it is not causing problems at the resort, said the Edmonton man.

Mark Sawatzky, who camps on family property near the dam, also isn’t too concerned. When a similar pipeline break a few years ago spilled oil in the river he did find some traces on the river near his camping spot.

“To be honest, I don’t think it did any damage.”

Plains Midstream seems to be handling the present situation, he said.

“They ’fessed up to it right away. Whether they are honest with their numbers (on the amount of oil spilled) I guess we’ll find out.”

The oil company has another public information session for residents scheduled for Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the James River community hall.

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