Pipeline in northern Alberta leaks 9.5 million litres of industrial waste water

A boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press

ZAMA CITY, Alta. – A pipeline operated by a Texas-based oil company has leaked 9.5 million litres of industrial waste water in northern Alberta.

The Energy Resources Conservation Board said the spill was first reported by Apache Canada Ltd. on June 1.

READ MORE: How does Apache’s 9.5-million litre Zama City spill stack up? 

The pipeline breach is about 20 kilometres northeast of Zama City, a remote community near the Northwest Territories boundary.

“The affected area is undergoing cleanup, environmental monitoring, wildlife protection and remediation efforts and is currently estimated at 42 hectares,” the company said in a release Wednesday.

READ MORE: Open Data: Alberta oil spills 1975-2013

Apache said the nearby Zama River has not been affected by the leak, which has been plugged.

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An Apache official declined to answer questions about the Zama spill.

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Waste water that is extracted during oil and natural gas operations contains oil, gas, salt and other minerals.

Bob Curren of the resources conservation board said Alberta regulators didn’t learn how big the spill was until Tuesday.

“At the outset we were unaware that it was of this extent or volume,” Curren said from Calgary. “If we had known that up-front we would have made the announcement at that time.

“Once it was determined that the volumes were at this level we immediately moved to issue a news release.”

READ MORE: What it’s like when oil runs through your backyard

Greenpeace Canada said the area of the spill is an important wetland and habitat for animals and birds.

The environmental group calls the leak one of the largest of its type in Canadian history.

Keith Stewart, a Greenpeace spokesman, said this kind of waste water is full of toxic compounds.

“This is a massive spill of toxics into one of the most important wetlands in Canada, if not the world,” he said from Toronto. “The government shouldn’t be trying to hide these kinds of things.”

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READ MORE: Anatomy of an oil spill

Greenpeace called on the Alberta government to release the findings of a pipeline safety review that was completed last year.

The province commissioned the report following spills from oil pipelines owned by Plains Midstream Canada in central Alberta last June and in April 2011 in north-central Alberta.

The Apache website says the corporation has oil and natural gas operations around the world including the Gulf Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, Egypt, the North Sea, Australia and Argentina with assets in 2011 worth US$52 billion.

The Alberta government says it’s too soon to say whether a Texas-based oil company will face charges over a pipeline that leaked 9.5 million litres of industrial waste water.

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