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Spill impacts wildlife and downstream communities

The third-largest city in Saskatchewan has been forced to build an emergency pipeline to supply drinking water to its citizens.

The action was announced on Sunday by city officials in Prince Albert, Sask, after the oil plume from the Husky pipeline break near Maidstone began to threaten the city. Prince Albert will now join the City of North Battleford in having shut down their river water intakes due to the spill.

According to the announcement from the municipal government in Prince Albert, the emergency line will run 30 kilometres out from the city, eventually connecting the raw water intake of the municipal water treatment plant with the South Saskatchewan River. The timeline on how long the emergency pipeline will be in use is set at around two months, with no estimates on how much the emergency action will cost the municipality.

Along with the effects on the two large communities along the river, negative impacts on wildlife due to the spill have also been reported. According to posts on social media by Lend A Paw Animal Rescue in Maidstone, workers from Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation have set up a triage station to aid animals who have been in contact with the oil.

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At least three birds were confirmed to be impacted, with a Canada goose, a great blue heron, and a sparrow all coming in to the centre. The sparrow later passed away, while the goose and heron remain in care according to the latest reports.

The total size of the spill has been said to be between 200,000 to 250,000 litres of diluted heavy oil, which has been compared to two fuel-car loads. Four sets of booms have been set up along the river to skim out the oil, with two in North Battleford, one 50 kilometres downstream of the city, one at the Paynton crossing, and another at the Prince Albert water intake.

A clear reason for the spill has not yet been announced, but according to government officials the site was contained the same day as the spill. Wes Koytyk, the Executive Director of Environmental Protection with the Saskatchewan government, said the spill is equal to two rail cars, and of a higher magnitude than the province is used to.

He also said it was rare to have an oil spill of this magnitude in Saskatchewan.

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