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Oil spill leaks into Regina sewer system, city and Co-op Refinery don’t alert public: union

The Co-op Refinery is shown in Regina on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020.
The Co-op Refinery is shown in Regina on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. Mark Taylor / The Canadian Press

An oil spill that leaked into the Regina sewer system was not made widely public by either the city or the Co-op Refinery Complex.

Unifor Local 594 alerted Regina residents and media to the spill following an article in the Leader-Post, who broke the story Friday.

The spill occurred on May 22 and resulted in the contamination of Regina’s sewer system, says the union which represents over 700 locked out refinery workers.

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Neither the City of Regina or the Co-op Refinery Complex issued a public notice to alert residents or media of the spill.

Brad DeLorey, spokesperson for Co-op, said the public was not notified because the spill did not pose a threat to residents or the environment.

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Global News has reached out to the city for comment.

“The alarming fact that it was the City of Regina that discovered the spill, and was not reported by the Co-op Refinery, should concern almost everyone,” said Kevin Bittman, president of Unifor Local 594.

An unknown amount of oil went into the city’s sewer system after high winds pushed it there said DeLorey.

“I’ve worked at the refinery for 23 years, and windy conditions are not abnormal in Saskatchewan,” said Bittman adding the Co-op’s explanation “doesn’t have merit.”

“There is more to this than just weather.”

According to Environment Canada, the maximum wind gust on May 22 in Regina was 48 km/h, which is below average. A spokesperson for the Co-op Refinery Complex told the Leader-Post wind speeds were 70 km/h that day.

Throughout May, the average wind gust has been 50 km/h. However, days prior to the spill, top wind gusts averaged 65 km/h.

Unifor is blaming the spill on inadequate replacement workers.

“Our hardworking members are highly skilled and highly trained for these exact scenarios and it’s clear we are the key to safety at the refinery,” Unifor National president Jerry Dias said in a statement. “Bringing in replacement workers from out-of-province with little to no training and throwing them in to operating the refinery is a recipe for disaster.”

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According to Unifor, this spill is not an isolated incident.

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“Since the lockout began there have been numerous spills and releases that have the potential for significant impact on the environment,” said Unifor in a statement. “Picture and videos have circulated the internet of catalyst excursions to the atmosphere, abnormal sulphur releases, and transporting tank cars with the lids open or covered in product from spills during the loading process.”

The union is not only calling for more transparency but for the Ministry of Environment to conduct a full investigation into the oil spill.

“There are real concerns that once oil enters the city wastewater system that it can easily migrate into the Qu’Appelle Valley waterway that many farmers use for irrigation and drinking water,” says Unifor.

The investigation remains ongoing.

Measures will be taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again, DeLorey said.

A division of Unifor represents some Global News employees.

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