After a major pipeline leak that spilled into a major river and tainted drinking water for thousands of people, Husky Energy has pled guilty.
The spill occurred in July 2016 and contaminated the North Saskatchewan River, resulting in the cities of North Battleford, Prince Albert and Melfort to shut off their water intakes for two months.
Husky plead guilty to one provincial and two federal environmental charges in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan.
The federal charges are under the Fisheries Act and the Migratory Birds Convention Act which protect water frequented by fish and birds. The provincial charge is for “allowing the discharge of a substance … into the environment” causing an adverse effect.
The federal Crown withdrew seven other charges on the company.
During the spill, 40% of 225,000L of diluted heavy oil entered the river in west-central Saskatchewan. It caused a plume that reached several hundred kilometers downstream.
These charges are a result of a 19-month join federal-provincial investigation back in May 2018.
Husky has apologized for the spill and accepts full responsibility. The claim that the pipeline buckled and leaked because of ground movement. It was allowed to restart in 2016 after being repaired and inspected.
Husky estimated a cleanup cost at more than $107 million. They also state that 90% of the oil was recovered.
Many people state that the cleanup wasn’t good enough.
Chief Wayne Semaganis spoke on behalf of his Little Pine First Nation and for the Sweetgrass and Red Pheasant bands. He said that birds, wildlife and fish are still under the effects of oil contamination. The First Nations have lost their traditional use of land.
“We no longer fish in the river. We no longer trap on or near reserve lands. We no longer farm on or near reserve lands,” he said.
“We no longer drink water drawn from reserve lands. In fact, many will only drink bottled water.”
Semaganis said the Indigenous communities remain anxious, fearful and psychologically stressed.
“We are absolutely clear about two facts … the cleanup of the contamination is inadequate and incomplete.”
North Battleford and Prince Albert have filed victim impact statements with the court. Prince Albert’s statement said the spill cause significant disruption and stress for many parties and considerable losses to individuals and businesses.
At the peak of the summer holidays, spray parks were closed. Laundry mats were closed, car washes couldn’t operate, and businesses had to close.
“The city was forced to implement its emergency operations centre,” the statement said, read by provincial prosecutor Matthew Miazga.
The city also needed to add temporary lines to two nearby rivers for drinking water.