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‘Sick and angry’: Sask. First Nation responds to oil spill near Stoughton

WATCH ABOVE: On Jan. 23, the Saskatchewan government said there had been an oil pipeline leak on the Ocean Man First Nation. Global's Christa Dao visited the oil spill site on the First Nation today and brings us this update on the clean-up effort.

After an oil spill was detected north of Stoughton, Sask., the cleanup effort continued Tuesday with Tundra Energy Marketing Limited (TEML) working to recover the remaining 30,000 litres of crude oil that spilled onto the Ocean Man First Nation.

The province said it was notified of a pipeline leak Friday, and a subsequent 200,000 litres of crude oil was spilled onto agricultural land.

TEML company spokesperson Jeff Yanko said they expect to have the site cleaned up by the end of the day.

“Currently we’ve got all of the freestanding product that has been removed from the location… We’re taking what’s left of the contaminated soil from the location right now,” Yanko said.

“We should have [the contaminants] removed by the end of the day [Tuesday],” he said.

READ MORE: Pipeline spills oil on First Nations land in southeast Sask.

Yanko said he doesn’t believe there’s any environmental impact as the leaked oil was contained within the slough.

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“There is zero impact, aside from the contaminated soil that’s there. There’s been no wildlife that have been impacted from the incident,” he said.

According to Ocean Man First Nation Chief Connie Big Eagle, it’s too early to tell what the environmental impacts are. She said their main priority is cleanup.

“Right now we want them to concentrate on the cleanup and deal with them about any after effects when this is taken care of,” Connie said.

She said the community was in shock when the leak was discovered, and emotions ranged from anger to sadness.

“Of course everybody’s not happy that it happened in the first place… You hope that these things will never happen to you or to your community and so yah, it was shock. It was a surprise,” she said.

“At that time, it was a sad sight. The snow was all black.”

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“Ugly, really greasy smell”

Tundra Energy said it is unclear how long the oil had been leaking but according to Clint Big Eagle, it could have been at least a week.

Clint had detected a greasy smell in the air for at least ten days but didn’t think anything of it

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“I never really thought anything about it because there was some new drills down there, but didn’t bother,” Clint recalled.

After days, he said the foul, greasy odour was starting to bother him and on Friday afternoon, he went searching for the smell – that’s when he discovered the spill.

“The smell was definitely over [there at the site] so I walked in there and [saw] big puddle of oil over there.”

He said he was “sick and angry” when he first discovered it.

“It’s not just a little leak when it fails, it gets real terrible real fast.”

Photo taken of oil spill on Ocean Man First Nation on Friday afternoon.
Photo taken of oil spill on Ocean Man First Nation on Friday afternoon. Clint Big Eagle

However, with three pipelines in the area, Energy and Resources Minister Dustin Duncan said odour in the region doesn’t necessarily translate to leaks.

“We can’t say whether or not that person was actually smelling odour from that spill or neighbouring operations,” he said.

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READ MORE: Saskatchewan pipeline leak reaction criticized as too slow by Greenpeace

Duncan went on to defend the provinces delay in notifying media about the spill, citing the priority was the cleanup.

“Initial response priority is to contain the site and begin cleanup. Once that was started then they can inform the public,” he said.

According to TEML, the company monitors their pipelines very closely, including using an aerial flyover to detect any leakage, but no leak was detected last Tuesday.

Yanko said the company is working with environmentalists and provincial regulators to determine why the leak was not spotted.

“We’ll be able to come up with the answers later on, but because there’s so much snow in the area that maybe the oil or the product was flowing underneath and it does give off a bit of odour,” he said.

“We spend a lot of money and time to be sure that the integrity of the pipeline is intact and so we run tool on our pipelines on a regular basis.”

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Tundra Energy said there have been no discussions with Ocean Man about any compensation at this time. However, they said they are working closely with the First Nation and there will be future discussions about it.

The company will be excavating on Wednesday to locate the exact pipeline to determine the cause and when it leaked.

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In a statement, Environment and Climate Change Canada said the pipeline in question is the property of Tundra Energy and said their National Environmental Emergencies Centre has assessed the situation and remain available to provide support if requested.

There has been no request from the province for assistance at this time.