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This article was published 8/6/2012 (2986 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
SUNDRE, Alta. -- Crews were scrambling Friday to contain and clean up a pipeline spill that is believed to have sent up to 475,000 litres of crude oil flowing into a rain-swollen Red Deer River system in west-central Alberta.
Plains Midstream Canada said it closed off its network of pipelines in the area when the spill was discovered Thursday night.
Tracey McCrimmon, executive director of a community group that works with the industry, said rural homeowners first raised the alarm about an oil-pipeline spill. She said people who live just north of Sundre phoned in reports Thursday night of smelling rotten eggs -- the telltale odour of sour gas or sour oil.
"The first call that we got was at 8:40 p.m. There was an odour complaint. We had multiple calls of a rotten-egg smell," said McCrimmon, director of the Sundre Petroleum Operators Group.
"We called all of the oil and gas operators within six kilometres of the area. They were able to source the odour within an hour."
The company said the oil spilled into Jackson Creek near the community of Sundre, about 100 kilometres from Red Deer. Jackson Creek flows into the Red Deer River.
Recent heavy rains have swollen streams and rivers in the area, some to near flood stage, and local officials are concerned the oil will spread more quickly down the system.
"There's oil in the river and the river is moving very quickly right now because of the recent rains and meltwater," said Bruce Beattie, reeve of Mountain View County, which is on the river system. "Certainly, anything that is coming out of the pipeline or that did come out of the pipeline is certainly moving quickly downstream.
"It's going to be a major environmental concern for sure."
The region around Sundre is considered pristine wilderness by many in Alberta. It's a common getaway destination for people in Calgary and popular with anglers and hunters.
The area where the oil spilled is sparsely populated and mostly ranchland.
Alberta Environment spokeswoman Jessica Potter said communities and individuals downstream of the spill have been told not to use river water until further notice.
"Residents in the area have been notified that a spill has taken place," she said.
"Water intakes have been shut at all facilities downstream and we are encouraging people to shut-in their water and not draw from the river at this time."
Premier Alison Redford headed to nearby Dixon Dam to hold a news conference Friday afternoon, where she said the spill had been contained to the Glennifer reservoir and crews were working to minimize the environmental impact.
She said there will be an investigation but added Alberta's pipeline system is supported by a strong regulatory framework that serves as a model for other jurisdictions.
"It's my expectation that the minister of environment and the minister of energy, as well as the (Energy Resources Conservation Board), will have to review those investigations once they're completed to determine the cause of this incident and then to take whatever steps might need to be taken in order to prevent this in the future."
She said until the investigation is complete, it's too early to say whether aging infrastructure is to blame.
"Albertans have an expectation that the infrastructure that we have in place... is strong," she said. "It is unfortunate when these events happen. We are fortunate in this province that they don't happen very often, and we can have some confidence that when they do happen, we have plans in place to deal with them."
The community of Sundre is upriver from the spill, but Red Deer is downstream.
The City of Red Deer has been told booms will be set up on the river near Dickson Dam and the Gleniffer reservoir.
Leslie Chivers, a city spokesman, said people in Red Deer have been told there is nothing to worry about.
"I hesitate to use the word 'concern' because if they can clean up the spill, then life is normal," Chivers said. "We are monitoring the situation at this time. And if things change, then we'll advise residents of further actions that will be happening."
Plains Midstream said it was light sour crude that spilled. It said Alberta energy regulators and government health and environment officials are monitoring water and air quality in the area.
"Light sour crude oil has a strong petroleum odour but this odour does not pose a health or safety risk to the public," the company said in a news release.
"We deeply regret this incident and are working to ensure we're doing all we can to limit the extent of the release and any community and environmental impacts," company vice-president Stephen Bart said in a statement.
"We're committing the resources necessary to mount a full-scale response."
-- The Canadian Press
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