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Oil-spill cleanup estimated to cost $53 million

Councillor says company must learn lessons
Crews work at the site of the Plains Midstream Canada oil spill on the Red Deer River.

The company handling an oil pipeline leak in west-central Alberta estimates it will spend more than $53 million to clean up and restore the area.

The cost was reported in a quarterly report by Plains All American - a subsidiary of pipeline owner Plains Midstream Canada.

Up to 3,000 barrels of light sour crude oil leaked into the Red Deer River near Sundre in June.

The report said the cleanup cost is based on the company's prior experience and after consulting its environmental specialists.

The company said remediation costs might be more than estimated, but it has adequate reserves for all "probable and reasonably estimated costs."

Paddy Munro, a councillor for Mountain View County, where the leak occurred, said it is a harsh reality check for the company. "They've got to be learning some lessons," Munro said.

The report acknowledged that there are likely to be other spills that will have to be dealt with.

"Although we believe that our efforts to enhance our leak prevention and detection capabilities have produced positive results, we have experienced (and likely will experience future) releases of hydrocarbon products into the environment from our pipeline and storage operations," the report said.

"The inclusion of additional miles of pipe in our operations may result in an increase in the absolute number of releases company-wide compared to prior periods."

No one from the company could be contacted.

Munro's comments come after his observations from weekly river tours downstream from the spill site.

For more than three weeks, personnel have been trying to expose the faulty section of pipe. The task is proving difficult, Munro said.

"The first thing they did was put a gravel dam around the pipe and they had a whole bunch of pumps out there," he said.

Workers have been trying to hammer six-metre steel casings around the pipe. The casings have interlocking sections that can dam the river so welders can patch the pipe, Munro said.

"So when they pull it from the river, there is a limited chance that a 47-year-old pipe is going to break and leak again."

The report said the cleanup has been completed at about half of the river sites."

"But what does cleaned up mean?" asked Munro. "Is it just the surface? Has it seeped into the gravel?"

Munro said Mountain View County council will meet Plains Midstream Canada president David Duckett this month to discuss the cleanup and how landowners have been treated.

"These people were impacted and Plains will not openly offer any kind of compensation. That doesn't seem right," said Munro.