Oil spillin northeastern B.C. threatens region's water supply -

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Oil slick in northeastern B.C. threatens region's water supply -

CHETWYND, B.C. (CP) - A burst oil pipeline dumped as much as 10,000 barrels of oil into the Pine River on Tuesday, threatening the water supply of this northeastern B.C. region. The pipeline was shut off once the early morning break was detected and 75 workers from British Columbia and neighbouring Alberta were working to contain the oil.

The slick 21 kilometres long was moving towards Chetwynd, 100 kilometres downstream from the pipeline break.

Booms were strung 40 kilometres upriver from the town to contain the oil.

"There was a sheen running in front of it that looked like diesel," said Chetwynd Mayor Charlie Lasser, after flying over the spill in a helicopter. "And then back farther there was black oil stretching as far as we could see."

Chetwynd, which has a population of about 4,000 people, including its outlying area, depends on the 10-metre-wide Pine River for its water.

Chetwynd, whose water-supply intakes are about a kilometre upstream from town, has water reserves that will last as four to six weeks with conservation, said Lasser.

But the town's long-term water supply could be threatened, he said.

"We've shut everything down," said Lasser. "Severe water restrictions are now in place.

"We supply a large supply of water to people outside of the municipality. These may be suspended."

Underground sources of water do exist and wells can be dug if the crisis worsens, said Lasser.

Residents were made aware of the oil spill immediately.

Workers were skimming oil off the river and pumping it into trucks, said Lasser.

However, many parts are inaccessible by road, leaving swampy pockets of the river susceptible to prolonged oil exposure.

A thin oil film made it past the first set containment booms and a second set was added further downstream.

"If it makes it by our containment boom system, it will take a couple of days before it gets to Chetwynd," said Alex Dabrowski, spokesman for the B.C. Ministry of Environment.

The pipeline, which belongs to the Calgary-based Pembina Pipelines, runs between Taylor and Prince George, in north-central British Columbia.

The crude oil is flowing through a relatively unpopulated area consisting of woods and farmland, said Rich Girard, the Environment Ministry's regional pollution prevention manager.

"It is mostly floating and will coat anything it comes in contact with," said Girard.

The mayor said there are many small sloughs and backwaters that are trapping the oil.

"Something has got to happen or it will be months before it all goes through," he said.

Lasser said residents of this resource community - fuelled by natural gas drilling, forestry and mining - are not panicking.

A rain storm hit the area Monday night and Lasser said more rain is on its way.

"It'll bring the oil down faster and it will be harder to contain," he said


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), August 01, 2000


Oil spill threatens B.C. town's water supply WebPosted Wed Aug 2 10:49:43 2000 ET

CHETWYND, B.C. - Work crews are trying to contain an oil slick before it reaches a town in northeastern British Columbia and contaminates its water supply.

After a break in a pipeline sent oil gushing into the Pine River Tuesday morning, the town of Chetwynd, about 100 kilometres away is now concerned the slick could reach it by noon.

About one-million litres of crude oil spewed into the river before the line was shut down.

Chetwynd draws its drinking water from the river. Crews are setting up equipment to try to contain and collect the oil.

"We haven't had to shut the water supply down yet, but we only have about three weeks water supply," said Chetwynd Mayor Charlie Lasser.

Lasser said the town is bringing in an engineer to help figure out how it can protect its drinking water.

The pipeline belongs to Pembina Pipelines and runs between Taylor and Prince George, B.C.

http://cbc.ca/cgi- bin/templates/NWview.cgi?/news/2000/08/02/spill000802

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), August 02, 2000.

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