REGINA – The Saskatchewan government has given Husky Energy the OK to restart a pipeline after a major oil spill along the North Saskatchewan River that fouled the water source for three cities.
The government said in an email to media on Thursday that testing, inspection and evaluation of the repairs to the line have been done.
In July 2016, the pipeline leaked 225,000 litres of heavy oil mixed with diluent onto a riverbank near Maidstone, Sask. About 40 per cent of the spill reached the river.
The oil plume flowed hundreds of kilometres downstream and forced the cities of North Battleford, Prince Albert and Melfort to shut off their water intakes for almost two months.
Husky’s own investigation determined that the pipeline buckled because of ground movement. The company has said it accepts full responsibility and is using what it learned to improve operations.
The government email said measures have been taken to reduce the risk of a future failure at the same spot. They include thicker pipe on the sloped portion of the pipeline.
Other steps include adding meters to monitor the rate of ground movement, state-of-the art fibre optics to track pipeline strain and slope movement.
Husky will also have to submit weekly data from gauges measuring strain on the pipeline and submit an engineering assessment every 12 months of where the pipeline crosses the river.
Part of the concern in the Husky spill was over how it was reported.
The government was first told by a member of the public who spotted oil on the river. Government investigators later determined that the leak began July 20, the day before the spill was discovered. They found that the pipeline’s alarms were warning of potential problems and continued until the line was shut down for scheduled maintenance at 7:15 a.m. on July 21.
Husky Energy has said pipeline monitoring indicated pressure anomalies at 8 p.m. on July 20 and the company started a shutdown at 6 a.m.
Saskatchewan’s Justice Ministry is still reviewing Husky’s response to alarms before the spill to decide whether charges should be laid.
Husky could face fines of up to $1 million a day under the Environmental Protection Act and $50,000 a day under the Pipelines Act in Saskatchewan. There could also be federal charges under the Fisheries Act.