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Pipeline warning system active before Husky spill: report

The Saskatchewan government has finished their investigation into the Husky oil spill.

The spill took place on July 21, 2016, and resulted in multiple water intakes being shut down along the North Saskatchewan River. 225 cubic metres of oil, blended with distillates, were released in the incident. 60 per cent of the spill was contained, prior to entering the river north of Maidstone, Sask.

While the final report of the spill has been sent to the Ministry of Justice, a summary of the main findings has been released by the provincial government. The investigation found the pipeline break was from mechanical cracking due to a buckle of the line. It was also found that while the buckle was caused by ground movement, it was not a sudden, one time event, instead taking place over “many years.”

A timeline of the incident, included with the government release, follows below.

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-Based on an analysis of the operating data, the investigators have concluded that the leak began on July 20, the day before the discovery of the spill.

-The pipeline’s dual alarm leak detection systems were issuing notices to the operators of potential problems prior to the spill and continued until the system was shut down for scheduled maintenance at 7:15 a.m. on July 21.

-The Government of Saskatchewan was first notified of the spill when a member of the public reported an oil slick on the river near the Tobey Nollet Bridge.   This call was received at approximately 8:30 a.m.  After obtaining additional information from the caller, two staff members from the Ministry of the Economy’s field office in Lloydminster were dispatched to the bridge at approximately 8:40 a.m. to investigate the source of the spill.  They arrived on site at approximately 9:35 a.m. and confirmed there was a significant amount of oil on the river.  The source of the oil was not immediately known and staff began a search of the area.

-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.

-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.

-The broader, multi-agency provincial response was activated at that point with the Ministry of Environment formally assuming overall provincial lead for the response in accordance with long-standing procedures for substantive discharges impacting water bodies.  The Ministry of the Economy staff shifted their focus to the immediate clean-up of oil on the right of way and the investigation of the cause of the break.

According to the release, Husky’s response to the alarms has been “extensively investigated” and the reasons for why they did not shut down the line are being reviewed by the Ministry of Justice.

The Ministry of the Economy is now aiming to improve pipeline regulations in Saskatchewan, based on the findings of the report. This includes the passing of the Pipelines Amendment Act, a compliance audit of integrity management for companies operating pipelines over water crossings, and new regulatory standards for crossings.

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The ministry will also be examining the designs of legacy water crossings in the province, to make sure any deficiencies in design are addressed by operators.

“We have consulted with industry on these actions,” said Dustin Duncan, Minister of the Economy. “Working together, we will ensure the timely implementation of any changes.”

The full report on the incident once all prosecution processes and possible appeals are finished. Crown prosecutors are currently reviewing the matter.

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