Alberta residents raise oil spill cleanup concerns

Alberta residents raise oil spill cleanup concerns by CBC News, August 27, 2012
Landowners near Sundre, Alta., say they are being kept in the dark by the oil company responsible for cleaning up a spill on their property. Gord Johnston says while he’s pleased Plains Midstream Canada is cleaning up the 3,000 barrels of light sour crude that spilled in the area in June, he’s frustrated with the way its being done. His property sits on the banks of the Red Deer River and was completely covered in oil on June 7. “I want to know what’s going on here, why they’re doing it and what they’re putting into the land,” he said. Johnston has worked in the oil and gas industry and dealt with landowners — he knows there are protocols to follow, but he says crews from Plains Midstream Canada have been ripping through his land and hauling equipment across it without his permission. He said the company has not arranged a landowner agreement with him. “It’s not that we don’t want this cleaned up, but I want to be aware,” he said. “I want to see the industry standards. I want to see what they are doing.” Months later, the oil looks like its gone — but a quick scratch of the surface reveals a strong odour. “I can pick up here a handful of sand and you can smell the hydrocarbons in it,” said Johnston.

And his wife, Bonnie Johnston, fears the worst. “I don’t know when it will be in our water, and in a short time they’re not going to test it anymore, so if it flows into our water well when will we know its there,” she said. Worried about that odour — as well as water and ground contamination — the Johnstons haven’t been staying at their home, which has been in the family for generations. Plains Midstream put them up in a hotel for a while, but it was only temporary. “They told me they were tired of me holidaying on their dime and to get out,” said Gord. That was around July 15 after the company told him his property had been cleaned up, but crews have returned since then. Gord is also concerned about the amount of brush removed from the river bank, which he feels will cause flooding issues in the future. Bonnie says she’s fed up with the lack of information. “They don’t have to tell you they’re coming in; they don’t have to tell you what they’re doing, and it’s very frustrating,” she said. Currently, Gord and Bonnie are staying at their son’s home in Red Deer. Plains Midstream couldn’t comment directly on this matter but says it will work with each landowner and resident to address impacts as a result of this incident.

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