Imperial Oil Attempting to Contain Toxic Water Leak Following Order from Ottawa

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Imperial Oil Resources Limited, Canada’s largest petroleum refiner, is taking steps to prevent toxic, tailings-contaminated water from leaking onto Crown lands from one of its oil-sands sites located in Alberta following an order from the federal government.

The leak has been ongoing for months and follows an original spill of over 5 million litres of contaminated water that occurred in May 2022 at Imperial Oil’s site in Kearl, Alberta, as the Globe and Mail first reported.

Imperial Oil notified the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) about the initial leak in May 2022, but Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) did not learn about it until the AER issued an Environmental Protection Order and posted an online statement about it on Feb. 7.

This occurred shortly after Imperial alerted the AER of a second incident involving a “drainage pond overflow,” which they reported to the Alberta regulator on Feb. 4.

The Alberta regulator was supposed to inform ECCC about the initial leak in May 2022 within 24 hours of learning about it, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault told reporters on March 9.

“It is very worrisome,” Guilbeault said about the AER’s delay of communication, adding, “We have to be notified within 24 hours.”

The AER did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times when asked for comment on their delay in notifying ECCC of the incident.

Water Samples

Guilbeault’s department informed The Epoch Times on March 15 that it has been collecting water samples from a land-based seep near a fish-bearing waterbody in close proximity to Imperial’s Kearl oil-sands site.

ECCC issued a Fisheries Act Direction to the company on March 10 ordering it to take “immediate steps” to prevent the tailings-tainted water from seeping into the body of water, and federal officers confirmed several days later that Imperial had taken the ordered action.

Nicole Allen, an ECCC spokesperson, said the federal department has not yet determined whether or not the contaminated water reached the fish-bearing waterbody.

“Results of the water samples are still pending,” she said, adding that federal enforcement officers will “continue to attend the site to monitor and collect information” to ensure compliance with the federal Fisheries Act.

Imperial Oil last issued an update on the situation on March 8, saying it regrets the incidents and is “making every effort to learn from it and apply preventative measures.”

“Based on our monitoring, released fluids did not enter any waterways and there have been no impacts to local drinking water sources. There is no indication of impact to wildlife. Imperial will continue to work closely with the Alberta Energy Regulator to certify the cleanup,” it wrote.

The company said it will release its next update on March 15.

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