Stock-watering advisory lifted for North Saskatchewan River

Livestock producers who usually draw water for their animals from the North Saskatchewan River may again do so, Saskatchewan’s Water Security Agency said Friday.

The WSA on Friday announced it has lifted its advisories in relation to livestock watering and recreational uses such as water skiing and other activities. Those advisories took effect after a Husky Energy pipeline near Maidstone, Sask. leaked an estimated 225 cubic metres of crude oil into the river July 21.

The agency cautioned that its evaluations on impacts to aquatic life and “other uses such as fish and wildlife” are “ongoing and separate from this assessment.”

The WSA also gave SaskWater and the cities of Prince Albert, North Battleford and Melfort notice they can again begin diverting and treating water from the North Saskatchewan River and Codette Reservoir. Those intakes have been shut since the spill was confirmed.

The agency said its decision to allow the water intakes and treatment to resume comes after the recovery of about 88 per cent of the oil from the spill, plus “significant technical study, monitoring and review.”

The WSA said its decision stems from an overall water safety assessment from the technical group which has been working as part of the oil spill response to address “human health threats, the fate of the oil, treatment requirements and long-term monitoring.”

The assessment report said it assumes “direct residential use,” such as ingestion, bathing and/or showering, of untreated water from the North Saskatchewan River, thus its results are also “health-protective of direct‐contact recreational water activities” such as swimming in the river.

That assessment — later reviewed by federal, provincial and university experts and consultants for the affected municipalities — found the oil components still detected in the river “do not present unacceptable health risks to residents whose treated water supply will be sourced from the river once intake use restarts.”

The oil still in the river is mostly attached to fine river sediments, such as silt and clay, is dispersed mainly in points in the river less than 100 km downstream from the oil’s point of entry, and “will continue to degrade naturally,” the assessment said.

Affected municipalities are also advised to adjust their water treatment processes “to account for the current water quality of the sources,” to collect samples of treated water and test for petroleum components before the water goes to their distribution systems, and to advise their consumers of a “potential change in water quality” as those systems come back online.

North Battleford and Prince Albert, with funding from Husky, also plan to invest in “further temporary pre-treatment and treatment options,” the agency said.

Also, “an ongoing river water quality monitoring plan for potable water intakes will ensure that the water quality impacts due to the river cleanup and changing river conditions can be adequately assessed over time,” the assessment report said. — AGCanada.com Network

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