Highway 20 in central Alberta still closed 2 weeks after VGO spill but cleanup crews make progress

Click to play video: 'Cleanup of goopy mess continues on highways southwest of Edmonton'
Cleanup of goopy mess continues on highways southwest of Edmonton
WATCH ABOVE: (From Jan. 29, 2024) Days after a goopy substance used in the oilfield leaked over a stretch of the road spanning 38 kilometres, parts of Highway 39 and Highway 20 in central Alberta remain closed for cleanup. Lisa MacGregor reports. – Jan 29, 2024

Two weeks after vacuum gas oil leaked from a tanker truck prompting 38 kilometres worth of highway closures in central Alberta, Highway 20 remains closed in both directions near the spill.

In an update on Thursday, however, Alberta Transportation and Economic Corridors told Global News cleanup crews have made significant progress as 60 vacuum trucks continue to work day and night in the area near Warburg.

“Approximately 75 per cent of the Highway 20 cleanup operation is complete on the southbound lanes between Highway 39 and Highway 616,” a spokesperson for the department said in an email. “Once the southbound lanes are completed they will open, allowing for the final cleanup of any overspray on the northbound lanes.”

On Tuesday, the press secretary for Environment and Protected Areas of Alberta Minister Rebecca Schulz told Global News that Highway 39 had reopened in both directions. One lane had been reopened several days earlier.

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“Alberta Environment and Protected Areas’ environmental consultant has travelled the impacted area and based on monitoring no waterbodies have been impacted,” Ryan Fournier said in an email.

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The leak was discovered on the night of Jan. 25. The stretches of highway originally affected by the spill were Highway 20 between Township Road 470 and Highway 39, as well as Highway 39 from Highway 20 to Highway 770.

The RCMP said the vacuum gas oil is “non-toxic” and Fournier had previously said the “material that spilled was not regulated under the Dangerous Goods Act and does not pose an environmental safety hazard.”

Police have said the driver of the vehicle involved in the spill will be facing charges under the Traffic Safety Act as well as under the Commercial Vehicle Safety Regulation. They believe that an oil valve on the truck involved was not sealed properly and that it was leaking without the driver realizing.

The Alberta government says the cost associated to the cleanup is the responsibility of the trucking company, Torq Trucking Ltd., “who is the responsible party.”

Officials with the Village of Breton have been providing regular updates on the village’s Facebook page. In a post on Thursday, they noted there is still no timeline for when Highway 20 will reopen between Alsike and Winfield.

“Thank you again to everyone with being understanding and tolerant of the cleanup effort,” the post said. “Everyone understands that it is getting tiring for residents, but I am sure it is wearing on those involved directly on the highway and behind the scenes.”

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Village officials have noted the cleanup work has been noisy.

“(The noise) is significant, especially for anyone whose house is close to the highway,” they said on Tuesday.

Click to play video: 'Goopy mess shuts down stretch of highway southwest of Edmonton'
Goopy mess shuts down stretch of highway southwest of Edmonton

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