UPDATE - More on BC Oil Spill...

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Oil spill threatens river, town in B.C.

10,000 barrels dumped when pipeline bursts


British Columbia Bureau Wednesday, August 2, 2000

Vancouver -- A 21-kilometre-long slick of crude oil is floating toward the small British Columbia town of Chetwynd in the Rocky Mountain foothills after a pipeline burst, spewing oil into the Pine River.

The pipe ruptured early yesterday morning, about 100 kilometres north of Chetwynd, a logging and mining town about 80 kilometres west of the Alberta boundary.

The most immediate threat is to the drinking-water supply in the town of 3,100, where residents get their water from the Pine River. Yesterday the town began rationing to prepare for a shortage.

Town officials estimated it would take two or three days for the slick to reach Chetwynd if the oil breaks through the booms erected to contain the spill.

The 800-kilometre underground pipeline is owned by Calgary-based Pembina Pipelines Corp., the largest shipper of crude oil in Western Canada.

A spokesman for Pembina said the spill was a bad one. "In the pipeline business, you can't move oil without having spills," said Jim Watkinson, Pembina's vice-president and general counsel. "But this is as serious as I've seen it."

He said the spill was detected at 1:20 a.m. by a control operator in Calgary who was observing pressure levels in the pipelines. After detecting the leak, the control operator shut off the oil from the pipeline's source in Taylor, B.C.

Pembina sent about 75 workers from nearby towns in B.C. and Alberta to mop up the spill. Booms were strung 40 kilometres upstream from the town and yesterday afternoon, workers were skimming oil off the river and pumping it into trucks.

Mr. Watkinson said the accident couldn't have occurred at a worse spot, right where the underground pipeline meets the river. Had the spill happened in a land-locked area, the accident would have been far easier to contain.

As it stands now, the cleanup will take at least several weeks, if not months.

The cause of the rupture, which sent about 10,000 barrels of crude oil into the river, was not known last night.

Chetwynd Mayor Charlie Lasser said he closed the town's outdoor pool and has asked residents to stop watering gardens and lawns until the town's supply is no longer jeopardized.

He said the town, whose water-supply intakes are about one kilometre upstream from the community, has a 3-to 6-week supply of water in its reservoirs.

Mr. Lasser, who toured the spill site in a helicopter yesterday morning, said the slick looked serious.

"It's a big spill," he said, adding a large sheen resembling diesel flowing ahead of the slick could be seen from the air.

The mayor said his biggest worry is if the booms fail to contain the slick. From what he saw from the air, Mr. Lasser said a thin film of oil had already seeped through two booms.

However, Mr. Watkinson of Pembina said he was confident that two more booms will catch all the oil.

The mayor said underground sources of water exist and wells can be dug if the supply becomes contaminated. The town yesterday was trying to hire an engineer to advise municipal officials on the scope of the spill.

The mayor said he has no experience with oil spills and didn't want to raise any alarms bells if none was warranted. Still, he said he didn't want to take any chances with the drinking water.

"There is concern but no immediate panic," Mr. Lasser said.

The worst-case scenario is if a big fire broke out drawing on the town's water supply, Mr. Lasser said.

A provincial Environment Ministry official said ministry staff were also on the scene monitoring the slick and the cleanup.

Rich Girard, the ministry's pollution-prevention manager in Prince George, said ministry staff noted that some oil had seeped through the first two booms, but stressed there was no immediate danger to Chetwynd's drinking water.


-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), August 02, 2000



It is my understanding that Pembina had just closed the deal to purchase the pipeline the day before the spill. Don't know who owned it before.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), August 02, 2000.

B.C. town rations water after oil spill WebPosted Wed Aug 2 18:37:39 2000 ET

CHETWYND, B.C. - A million litres of crude oil has turned a pristine river in Northern British Columbia into a toxic mess. The oil sprang from a pipeline that ruptured early Tuesday morning. A slick stretches for more than 20 kilometres down the fast flowing Pine River .

Crews of workers are trying to contain the oil. But people in the town of Chetwynd, 100 kilometres downstream, could be dealing with it for months or years.

Charlie Lasser is the mayor of Chetwynd, a community that, until the spill, depended on the Pine River for its drinking water. "It looks bad because it's not only in the river running, the oil has gone into the back eddies, and up little sloughs. And so, it'll take months and months if not years before the whole thing is absolutely cleaned up and good for drinking water again."

It the meantime, Chetwynd is rationing water from its reservoir, which has about a six week supply. But the town will have to find a permanent alternative.

It's less certain what the spill will mean for the wildlilfe. The first signs of damage are already apparent.

"I believe we won't be fishing for a long time in the river. I walked down last night and probably 200, 300 dead fish along the shores and in the river," said Donna Vipond who lives just a few kilometres from the spill site.

Vipond and others want to know how the spill happened. The company that owns the broken pipeline isn't sure, but it's accepting full responsibility. Pembina Pipeline corporation, based in Calgary, bought the line from Federated Pipelines limited on Monday. The spill occurred just hours after the deal closed.

Although the line was built in the 1960s, Pembina says age isn't a factor. But on Monday night, the company shut down the line's pumps during an electrical storm and then restarted them, causing a surge of pressure.

"There may have been a seam in the pipeline that may have separated and caused the product to spill. But it's still preliminary now, our focus has been on cleanup," said Robert Michaleski, Pembina's president.


The company has a crew of about 70 on the scene deploying booms to trap the oil. But it's a losing battle, according to Rich Girard. He's manager of pollution prevention with B.C.'s Ministry of the Environment. "It's a fairly fast flowing river, there's turbulence to it, so it is difficult, in fact pretty much impossible to fully contain an oil spill in that type of situation," he said. The concern is that the heavier crude will sink to the river bottom, posing an environmental threat that could possibly linger for years.

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

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

Rachel, Thank you for the comment . . . very interesting.

-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), August 03, 2000.

...and thanks to Martin for finding the article saying Federated Pipelines were the former owners. I've been looking without success for their website.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), August 03, 2000.

Absolutely! Many thanks to you Matin. You're the man! :)

-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), August 03, 2000.

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