Livestock water supplies still a concern after oil spill

While cleanup and water testing continue on the North Saskatchewan River, livestock producers with river access are still advised to find alternate water sources.

Jenifer Heyden, livestock specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture in North Battleford, said ministry staffers and Husky Energy did work with a few producers who were having trouble accessing alternate water sources, to “rectify the situation.”

Water samples haven’t exceeded guidelines for agricultural use, but Heyden said livestock producers should follow the recreational water advisory.

On top of its recommendations against swimming and other direct contact, the advisory recommended livestock and pets do not access the water, Heyden said.

The reasoning, she added, is that “if it’s not safe for people, it’s probably not safe for livestock at this point either.”

The Saskatchewan government is also advising people not to eat fish from the North Saskatchewan River.

Mel Duvall, media manager for Husky Energy, wrote via email that Husky doesn’t have an exact number for how many livestock producers border the river.

Husky staff, he said, “have been in touch with all landowners that have adjacent lands and have offered our assistance should they need it.

“We have offered to truck water in if required and to reimburse for any expenses incurred, for such things as water troughs,” he said.

But Husky hasn’t had many requests from livestock producers, he added. “Most are looking after things themselves or getting support from their neighbours.”

Livestock producers can call Husky’s toll-free line, 1-844-461-7991, for claim information and assistance, Heyden said.

Over 800 people are working on the spill, according to the latest update from the Saskatchewan government.

The city of Prince Albert is again providing water to the rural water utility, mobile home parks and a water crane. Workers are also disinfecting some sections of the rural water utility’s distribution system.

Aquatic life

As of Aug. 7, over 2,100 water samples had been collected, and over 1,400 of the samples analyzed, according to the latest update from the technical working group analyzing water quality in the North Saskatchewan.

That update, posted on the Husky website, focused on the spill’s potential impact on aquatic life.

Workers have found spilled oil on the shoreline, within the water, and in the river’s sediment, mostly within 20 km of the spill. So far 37 samples had toluene levels exceeding aquatic life guidelines. Toluene was also found to exceed aquatic life guidelines in samples collected as benchmarks upstream of the spill.

As well, eight samples had pyrene and five samples had other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons breaching aquatic life guidelines.

Toluene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons occur naturally in crude oil and are known to have toxic effects on people and animals.

Fish spawn

As of Thursday, the Saskatchewan government reported 97 wildlife mortalities, including 48 fish, 33 birds, two reptiles and 16 small mammals. The working group update said mussels, invertebrates, and fish eggs and embryos may be more vulnerable, as they may not be able to avoid heavy oil.

The working group also plans to report on how the spill might affect the fish spawn this fall.

Fish will also be collected and tested to see how the spill might be affecting fish populations, and to gauge the risk to human health. Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health will undertake those tests, the report noted.

Saskatchewan’s Water Security Agency is also sampling and analyzing water quality independently of the working group.

The technical working group includes public health experts, engineers, biologists, toxicologists, and environmental specialists from Husky, Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Environment, the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, and Matrix Solutions.

More information on Husky’s response is available online. –– AGCanada.com Network

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