PRINCE ALBERT, Sask.—Government officials say efforts to activate a temporary water pipeline following an oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River were interrupted by what they suspect was a motorist who drove over the line too fast.
Workers have been building the 30-kilometre-long pipeline for more than a week in order to supply Prince Albert with an alternate source of water after the city of about 35,000 shut its intakes to prevent oil from the spill upstream from entering its treatment plant.
Duane McKay, Saskatchewan’s commissioner of emergency management, says the line crosses a highway in several places.
McKay says there are ramps at the crossings, but he says it appears a driver may have failed to obey the speed limit at one of the crossings on Saturday and damaged the line.
The city has been relying on stored water from reservoirs and a retention pond since the Husky Energy pipeline near Maidstone leaked up to 250,000 litres of oil and other materials into the North Saskatchewan more than a week ago.
McKay says he believes the damage to the water pipeline has been repaired, but doesn’t know how much of a delay the incident caused.
“These alternative water sources are being pumped in and along the highways,” McKay told a phone-in media briefing on Sunday, noting there are workers at various spots along the line.
“It’s raised the issue of safety and people should pay attention to those limits.”
McKay said the driver that’s suspected to have caused the problem didn’t stick around.
The temporary line runs to the South Saskatchewan River. Prince Albert has also built a shorter line to the Little Red River.
Sam Ferris of Saskatchewan’s Water Security Agency said the line to the Little Red is running, but he said the city is still performing quality tests before distributing it to its system.
Ferris said the line to the Little Red should be adequate to supply Prince Albert in the event that the city’s reservoirs run dry and the line to the South Saskatchewan River cannot be brought on line in time.
The province has estimated that the spill has affected the water supply to about 62,000 people in the area.
North Battleford, a city which also draws its water from the North Saskatchewan, has relied on well water since the spill and is constructing its own temporary line to the town of Battleford’s treatment plant.
Husky has said it noticed pressure “anomalies” in part of its pipeline on July 20 and detected the spill the following day, when the line was immediately shut down.
Husky Energy and the province both say the cause of the spill is still under investigation.
The government has said it expects Husky to submit that full report within 90 days of the pipeline breach.
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