Bruce Jack Private water well explosion at Spirit River, Alberta

Bruce Jack Private water well explosion at Spirit River, Alberta Alberta Hansard, May 17, 2006

The Speaker: Good afternoon. Let us pray. We confidently ask for strength and encouragement in our service to others. We ask for wisdom to guide us in making good laws and good decisions for the present and the future of Alberta. Amen. Please be seated …

Coal-bed Methane Drilling
Dr. Swann: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Rural Albertans have lost trust in the ability of this Environment minister to protect groundwater and their safety. Growing rural concerns about increasing gas migration into water have been dismissed as fearmongering by this minister. One week ago in Spirit River a private well exploded, burning and hospitalizing three men. Alberta Environment has been investigating and receiving complaints about this well for over three years. To the Minister of Environment: can the minister confirm that this private well which exploded in Spirit River was being investigated by Alberta Environment?

Mr. Boutilier: Mr. Speaker, this was, as the hon. member has mentioned, a very unfortunate occurrence. In fact, one of my own Environment staff is the son of the family who owns the well. Of course, I wish his father and the other two involved in the incident a speedy recovery as I’m sure all members of the Assembly do. My ministry was on-site very shortly after the incident occurred, and we will continue to be involved until this issue is resolved. I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that this hon. member has been in here talking about coal-bed methane drilling. There is no coal-bed methane drilling going on anywhere near what is happening up there. I want to say that at this time we have no reason to believe this is related to industrial activity. There is simply no coal-bed methane in this area at all.

Dr. Swann: Mr. Speaker, after two years of complaints from people like the Zimmermans, Ernsts, Lauridsens, and others, how can we believe this department is protecting their health and doing a proper investigation of the complaints?

Mr. Boutilier: Mr. Speaker, the inferences that he is making against me personally I find unacceptable. I accept them but as a public official because my passion and my interest is protecting the land, air, and water of this province to every citizen, all 3.2 million. I guess I’d best describe it as almost as if I don’t have a heart. All I can say to you is simply this. Albertans are very caring people, and I know that this government reflects that in how we protect the environment. I think, based on some of the inferences that you have made against me, based on some of the unsubstantiated facts that you have made, I can assure all Albertans that we will do what is right in protecting their interest. Let me end by saying this. I think there’s only one quality that is worse than the hardness of the heart, based on the kind of comments you’re making, and that is softness of the head.

Dr. Swann: Three years this man waited for investigations. He still has no explanation of why his water exploded. Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Environment has not met the mark in protecting our most vital resource.

The Speaker: Hon. member, I appreciate that there’s a synergy that goes on in here, and I also appreciate that there’s emotion, but it’s question period. Let’s get to the question, okay?

Dr. Swann: I ask the Minister of Environment to resign.

Mr. Boutilier: Not on your life, Mr. Speaker. [Emphasis added]

Bruce Jack in hospital, the day of the explosion

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