Solemn anniversary of Wabamun Lake oil spill

WATCH: Jessica Kent reports on the oil spill that changed the way we respond to environmental disasters.

EDMONTON – Monday marked a devastating anniversary for the people of Wabamun.

On Aug. 3, 2005, 43 cars from a CN train hit a faulty rail and derailed in the village. It narrowly avoided cabins, but spilled almost 800,000 litres of oil into the lake. Witnesses said the lake and shore were coated with “black goo.”

CN was harshly criticized for its slow response. In a statement, the company said it has “made significant improvements in the last decade in how we respond to incidents and communicate with affected communities.”

The provincial government established the Emergency Management Alberta Agency to handle similar situations.

The spill cut the summer short for cabin and boat owners, who were compensated by CN.

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“We got $3,000 from CN for loss of enjoyment,” said one owner.

The water quality now isn’t concerning for most people at the lake. Sean Vigneau goes out to Wabamun every summer with his family.

“The scientists have said the long-term impacts are negligible,” said Kelly Aldridge of the Wabamun Watershed Council.

While swimmers will still occasionally find tar balls under the surface, Aldridge says it’s not a cause for any health concerns.

“They did an excellent job,” said Aldridge of CN’s cleanup. “They came back year after year and they worked in reed beds to clean the habitats for the ducks and the fish.”

With files from Jessica Kent, Global News

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