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COMMENTARY · 8th June 2012
Merv Ritchie
It was a tragedy to hear the news of the pristine Red Deer River system becoming exposed to the environmental disaster of an oil spill. A blessing of sorts is how the pipeline break under the Red Deer River was not carrying the thick heavy bitumen/condensate mix from Northern Alberta. The product reportedly spilled is called light sweet correction (sour) crude. The impact however is serious beyond compare for Alberta and downstream cities, such as Red Deer. Yet the spill presents an opportunity for the oil companies, along with their clean up plans, a once in a lifetime chance to prove themselves.

A short distance away from the spill the river is contained behind a dam. This dam, like all dams, created a large reservoir called Gleniffer Lake. The entire region upstream and downstream of the oil spill is renowned as a recreational, hunting and fishing destination. Numerous ecological reserves have been identified and protected.

The Dickson Dam at the east end of Gleniffer Lake provides a huge opportunity to contain the mess created by the oil spill. The only difficulty the clean up authorities will have is the high water levels. The rivers of the area are all reaching their peak and more rain is expected. This presents a problem at the Dickson Dam. The water flow cannot be stopped or restrained. It may even be forced to release higher volumes due to the high water. Yet, the Dickson Dam containment structure itself offers an ideal opportunity for the Environment Ministry and the companies clean up professionals to demonstrate their advanced technology. It might rightly be referred to as the last defence. If the oil residue cannot be prevented from entering the Red Deer water supply with such an ideal opportunity, albeit under dire circumstances, the oil companies and the Environment Ministry will have proven what their opposition have been claiming, they are completely negligent in evaluating and assessing the dangers of these pipelines.

Northwest British Columbian residents are in quiet reflection today. This incident is exactly what they have been raising concerns regarding. No one is happy, no one is smiling.

Oilsands, gas well and oil rig workers, pipeline builders and technical engineers in the petro chemical industry, are moms and dads, sons and daughters. They enjoy, boating, skiing, hunting and fishing. Watching the water gently flow by while sitting on a bench on the river bank is a common pastime. Being able to enjoy these activities requires an income and the oil patch can be argued as providing the best wages.

Many of those in the patch have argued against the opposition to more pipelines and the export of the product by tankers through BC west coast waters. Today many Albertan hunters, fishers and outdoors men and women will come to understand what these concerns are truly about.

It is not a group of tree hugging, ganga smoking, welfare addicts who are opposing the tankers and the pipelines. The oil spill by Enbridge in Michigan should have demonstrated this. It is all of us; all nationalities, all religious sects, all ages, all classes, both sexes.

The Pine Pass river spill, which destroyed the water system of the town of Chetwynd, was fair warning. Today Red Deer is facing an unforgivable mess. Kitimat, BC is watching, trembling. The entire water shed and the Pacific foreshore of Douglas Channel is up for destruction, far worse than what the Red Deer River is facing today.

Dickson Dam, Gleiffer Lake and the entire Red Deer River foreshore is completely accessible on both sides with a containment lake about 50 kilometers downstream from the spill. The product even floats, evaporates more easily, and the vapours do not cause serious immediate nerve damage. Unlike the ‘Dilbit’ (diluted bitumen) from Northern Alberta which does not float, poisons those exposed to it, remains where it is spilled for decades and is transported through completely inaccessible territory.

Will, under these absolutely ideal conditions, the Environment Ministry of the richest Province in Canada (Alberta) along with the oil company, (the most lucrative industry on the globe), be able to clean this mess up?

Those opposed to pipelines and tankers in BC hope they will be able to, but all the evidence available suggests otherwise.

It is clearly time to re-evaluate how the transportation of such products is being performed.
While Red Deer's water supply is threatened...
Comment by Karen Dedosenco on 10th June 2012
I was stunned by a comment from an Alberta fisherman, "I hope (the oil) just passes by in a week or two.".

This is one Albertan who will never understand why we don't want pipelines criss-crossing our province.

Read more:
Technology won't save us !!
Comment by Gerry Hummel on 10th June 2012
Merv, I wish you and Mr. Germuth who are both grand fellows would get it through your thick little skulls that , firstly, the oil companies will not "fork out" for the spill system you promote, just way to expensive! Secondly, even if Edmonton knows they have a quart leak on their hands, (Highly Unlikely, more than likely it would be a major failure) in some distant backwoods valley in the middle of winter, minus 20 degrees and the leak under tons of debris and snow it would still take crews days to get to the leak to deal with it! The lines would still have miles of pipe full of bitumen and condensate (because the lines run parallel to each other) to leak out into the environment! So the best leak technology will do no good! The best thing to do is process this stuff in Alberta or forget about it all together and get this country off of it's addiction to fossil fuels!
Comment by BJ BJARNASON on 9th June 2012
As an oil worker I am more than aware that spills happen I see numerous times in your article you reference how we the oil workers are "feeling"...did you interview any Alberta oil workers?? Here I'll give you my thoughts as a fourth generation oil worker on my "feelings" about this spill: Poop happens, Plains Midstream will clean it up. Their ya go words from a real oil worker that is how we feel. These pipelines have carried millions of barrels of oil, every once in awhile an accident is gonna happen. Canada leads the world in Oil production with environmental protection you don't believe me? Go see how the produce petroleum in Nigeria, Cuba or Saudi.
Pushing it...
Comment by MaggieJo Johnson on 9th June 2012
Ha ha, Merv! I hear you. My Colleagues were MORTIFIED to hear that I use a push lawn mower. They were looking at me like I had two heads or somefin'. I reassured them that at times I do break down and use the gas mower (Phewf. Back to one single head).

The manual mower is fun for the neighborhood kids, who upon hearing the click click clicking of the manual...immediately rush over in a group to pleadingly help me mow. Noooooooooo problem-o!

They have tons of fun taking turns with the pushing of the manual mower while I monitor them (better than using that limb-sucking gas mower, heh?). It's alot of fun for them; while teaching them "green" responsibility as well as the self-rewarding feeling of giving back to the Community by helping those in their midst.

I never pick up the grass clippings either (leaving them out provides nitrogen directly back into the soil)...and I never mow the lawn short like golfcourse turf; lest the summer sun burn the roots. As a result I have hardly ever had to waste water using the sprinkler in the summer months to water the lawn - maybe 1-2 times/year if even that. Seriously. It's true.

Pesticides? Yeah. Not at my place. The children and neighborhood kids are charged with bringing me vases of dandelions to decoratively show off in the house...and when they wither? INTO the compost pile. The dandelion leaves are picked to feed the pet bunny...and it's all good:)

And remarkably. My pesticide-free trimmed lawn is one of the greenest/lushest on the block. Go figure.
And the six oclock Canadian National news downplayed it
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 9th June 2012
Both CTV and CBC featured international Soccer, the Triple Crown contender "I'll Have Another", and the Indy Race in Montreal - All sporting stories - before mentioning the oil spill threatening the Alberta wilderness and a major Citys water supply. A full five minutes of news coverage of sports , both news channels, was aired first on the six o'clock evening news on Friday.

So, who determined European Soccer, Car and Horse Racing was more important, of a greater national interest, than a major oil spill threatening a major City water supply?
We all have better options, government and citizens
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 9th June 2012
When I drove a highway flatbed truck towing trailers, I was required by law to have three tie downs on every item. This ensured if one broke or came loose there would still be two more to protect the load from falling off and killing someone.

The same should be required for these types of systems traversing/crossing any water system or marsh land. Contained within at least one more enclosure, a larger pipe to act like a double hull or something such as a concrete tunnel.

Also, as District of Kitimat Councillor Phil Germuth discovered, a more sensitive leak detection system is available.

See the Everything Enbridge Section for article titled, "System Can Detect a Spill of Less Than a Pitcher of Water."
As for Citizens, we are embarrasing. Today I use a push lawnmower and since 1996 have used either a battery operated or elect plug in lawn mower. I shovel my sidewalks and driveways always by hand. I am 53 years old and refuse to use the gas powered implements.

Watch my neighbours do so and then drive their cars and trucks to the gym just demoralizes me and all the efforts we take to enlighten people.

The same goes for the speedway, the race track and all those who drive (roar) their monster trucks though this tiny hamlet to go to Tims for a coffee or to Safeway. We act like neanderthals. Truly, I sympathize with the Albertans who mock us. We deserve to be mocked.
"It was just light sour crude oil"..........
Comment by Ann Parker on 9th June 2012
Perhaps 3,000 barrels of DilBit spilled in Calgary or Edmonton area would get some people in there thinking why we in BC are so opposed to Enbridge pipeline .
yes and no to oil
Comment by chris from away on 8th June 2012
nw locals should be proud that their vocalization has forced the hand of enbridge to include a gazillion failsafe systems on their proposed new pipeline through some pretty darned dynamic geological terrain.
the question is obviously, is a gazillion enough.
probably not, but then again, wh0 amongst you is not a consumer of the product that enbridge wants to export to the world to maximize their gains.
who amongst you showed up at the ' opposition meetings' in a big pig rig vehicle, or flew in from away?
no, i do not agree with the tarsands, or harper's apparent push to make it as profitable as can be for the big companies, but i think if we are going to have them, then why not process it here for local use, or at a bare bones minimum, process it to the point that is not the absolutely worst product to move through the mountains and offshore.....
the haisla are good to go with the gas pipeline and there isn't a whole lot of opposition that i've heard about that, because a first nation is on board and the product evaporates ( or explodes) if it escapes.
anyway, just to let you all know, i've seen anti signs in toronto, ottawa and montreal, so you are not alone, but i would suggest that you lead by example if you want to force change.... hey, nathan,( and your buddy in victoria) you should travel less and virtual conference more.... sorry, just one little bone to pick
cheers from the city of student upheaval and many pots and pans.... crazy french people ......