July 7, 2013 1:59 pm

Northern Alberta First Nations community voices concern over sheen on Athabasca River

Saturday July, 6, members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation reported a large oily sheen on the river, about 60 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.

Supplied, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
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EDMONTON- A northern Alberta First Nation is demanding answers after discovering what it calls a petrochemical sheen on the Athabasca River.

Early Saturday morning, members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation reported a large oily sheen on the river, about 60 kilometres north of Fort McMurray. They say it stretches over 100 kilometres and has soaked the river banks.

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“So far, no one knows where it’s coming from and the community is very concerned,” said Eriel Deranger, communications coordinator for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

The First Nation believes it may be from a previous spill that was not contained, or a new release. Members say the sheen was reported to the Alberta Government’s Alberta Energy Regulator and Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD).

“Our Nation faces another toxic threat to our water supply and our calls for action are met by silence by the Alberta government and their new energy regulator. Our members appear to be the only world class monitoring system Alberta has,” said Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam.

Officials from ESRD say they were notified of the substance Saturday morning. Industries have been contacted and there have been no reports of failures, ESRD said Sunday.

An aircraft was sent overhead Saturday and nothing out of the ordinary was found, according to ESRD. Water samples from the river will be taken in for testing, and government officials say they will continue to monitor the situation.

After being notified of the potential release Saturday, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo isolated the Fort Chipewyan Water Treatment facility as a precautionary measure. Water intake was temporarily shutdown, as well.

Officials from the RMWB say there has been no impact to water quality, and there is a safe and adequate water supply available to the Fort Chipewyan community.

“There is no need to conserve or boil water,” said Kevin Scoble, director of Environmental Services for the RMWB. “We have sufficient reserves in place.”

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