Enbridge Elk Point Spill Pumps About 230,000 Litres Of Heavy Crude In Alberta

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Enbridge estimates about 230,000 litres leaked, but the ERCB's Darin Barter says that amount hasn't been confirmed. ALAMY
Enbridge estimates about 230,000 litres leaked, but the ERCB's Darin Barter says that amount hasn't been confirmed. ALAMY

ELK POINT, Alta. - There's been another oil spill in Alberta, this time northeast of Edmonton.

The Energy Resources Conservation Board says the leak of heavy crude oil happened Monday at a pumping station on Enbridge Inc.’s (TSX:ENB) Athabasca pipeline about 24 kilometres southeast of Elk Point.

Enbridge estimates about 230,000 litres has leaked, but the ERCB's Darin Barter said Tuesday that amount hasn't been confirmed.

"It's a significant size spill," said Barter. "Any amount of crude oil out of a pipeline is significant to us. Obviously we've had a number of pipeline incidents in the past short while and we're monitoring cleanup on them and we have a number of investigations underway."

Barter said the pumping station — a 12-year-old facility which is in the middle of a field — has been isolated. He also said the oil has not spilled into any waterways, nor were there any evacuations or injuries due to the leak.

"There's absolutely no waterways, there's no water, there's no standing water, it's on dry land," he said. "The company is actually on the scene and they're cleaning up the spill now. We''ll remain there for as long as we need to be until our comfort is achieved in cleanup operations."

Enbridge said in a news release that the cause of the leak appears to be a failure of a flange gasket. It said as soon as it detected the leak, it notified civic authorities and other regulatory agencies.

But Steve Upham, reeve of the County of St. Paul, where the pumping station is located, said as of Tuesday night he hadn't received any notification.

Upham said he was aware of the spill only through media reports.

"I don't think anybody in the county, at this point, has been notified," he said.

Asked if he should have been contacted by Enbridge, Upham said: "I would have thought so. Or Alberta Environment, because they would be notified, I think. We've heard nothing from anybody."

Enbridge said immediately after the leak was detected, the pipeline was shut down. It was restarted again Monday afternoon, but the company was ordered by the ERCB to shut it down again Tuesday afternoon.

"Enbridge is in discussion with the ERCB to determine the appropriate time for a restart of the line," the company said.

The leak is the second major spill in Alberta this month. Up to 475,000 litres of oil leaked from a pipeline owned by Plains Midstream Canada into the Red Deer River and flowed into Gleniffer Lake earlier this month.

People with homes on the man-made lake say the company still can't say for sure how long the cleanup will take. The Alberta government says it is monitoring water on the river and the lake twice daily at 21 different sites. It says trace levels of hydrocarbons have been detected beyond the containment booms on the lake, but that the levels are well below the province's drinking water guidelines.

The province is still advising people not to draw water directly from the river or lake, and it's telling people not to swim or fish in the lake, either.

"Once again Albertans are left to deal with the toxic effects of yet another pipeline spill in Alberta," said Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema.

"How many spills does it take before Alberta Premier Alison Redford does something to protect our water and all our communities? At minimum, we need an independent assessment of Alberta's pipeline safety to show the deficits in management, oversight, enforcement and infrastructure."

Enbridge is proposing to build a pipeline that would stretch from Alberta to the B.C. coast and transport oilsands oil. The Northern Gateway pipeline is in the midst of public hearings and is encountering a lot of opposition amongst First Nation groups.

Enbridge operates about 24,613 kilometres of crude pipeline, delivering on average more than 2.2 million barrels per day of oil and liquids.

— By Mary Jo Laforest in Edmonton

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