Husky may face legal action over spill

By Geoff Lee

March 28, 2017 12:00 AM

POSSIBLE FINES About 90,000 litres of oil found its way into the North Saskatchewan river last summer after a leak occurred in a Husky Energy Ltd. pipeline. Officials are investigating an alleged delay from the time the leak was noted until Husky reacted to it. FILE LLS PHOTO

Husky Energy Ltd. could face legal action for not shutting down its pipeline system when operators were alerted to a potential leak that led to a spill of oil into the North Saskatchewan River last July.
About 225,000 litres of oil blended with distillate leaked from a pipeline, with about 60 per cent of the leaked material contained or recovered on land. Husky spent $107 million on the clean up.
The Ministry of Justice will review Husky’s actions noted in the now completed investigation of the Husky pipeline leak on July 21.
Husky could be subject to a $50,000 per day fine under the Pipelines Act and $1 million per day under the Environmental Protection and Management Act according to the Ministry of Economy.
The investigators have concluded that the leak actually began on July 20, the day before the discovery of the spill. The investigation concludes the pipeline’s dual alarm leak detection systems were issuing notices to the operators of potential problems prior to the spill.
This continued until the system was shut down for scheduled maintenance at 7:15 a.m. on July 21.
“Husky’s response to the alarms has been extensively investigated and the details concerning their reasons for not shutting down the system are being reviewed by the Ministry of Justice,” said the report.
The report will bring about new pipeline regulations announced March 23 by Energy and Resources Dustin Duncan who forwarded the findings of his investigation to the justice ministry.
“Since the Husky spill in July, we’ve recognized that we need to do better when it comes to preventing incidents,” Duncan said in a statement.
Duncan expects the proposed Pipelines Amendment Act will close a number of regulatory and engineering gaps in the legislative framework based on the report’s findings.
The Ministry of Economy, for example, will ensure operators address deficiencies in the design of older pipelines noting the leaky Husky pipeline was built in 1997.
The investigation determined the cause of the pipeline break was due to mechanical cracking in a buckle in the pipeline caused by ground movement on the river slope over many years.
The investigators have concluded that the slope movement was not a sudden, one-time event.
The technical review of the spill is complete, but a full report on the incident won’t be released until all prosecution processes and any appeals have been concluded.
In the timeline of events, the report notes the Government of Saskatchewan was first notified of the spill on July 21 around 8: 30 a.m. by a citizen who noticed an oil slick on the river from the Highway 21 bridge.
The spill was confirmed by Ministry of Economy staff on site at approximately 9:35 a.m.
Ministry staff also contacted Husky at 9:50 a.m. to advise it of the incident and ask if they had any knowledge of the spill.
Husky confirmed that it had also received a report of oil on the river and staff were also looking for potential sources.
The report notes at 10 a.m. Husky contacted the Ministry of the Economy to confirm the location of the incident at its crossing upstream of the bridge triggering a multi-agency response.
The spill eventually forced the downstream cities of Prince Albert and North Battleford to find alternative sources of drinking water for several weeks.

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