CHATEH, ALBERTA--(Marketwired - Jun 13, 2013) - Dene Tha' First Nation is concerned about the impacts of a recent "produced water" spill from an Apache pipeline breach that has seriously affected harvesting areas in its Traditional Territory.
Apache estimates the 9,500 cubic metre spill covers an area of approximately 420,000 square metres. The spill is located on a Dene Tha' trapline and harvesting area, less than 15 km north of a Dene Tha' reserve and within 1.5 km of the Zama River.
Dene Tha' is worried that the spill may contain a number of materials, including hydrocarbons, sulphurous compounds, metals, radioactive materials and chemicals that have contaminated the water and may have killed fish, birds and wildlife. Dene Tha' is also gravely concerned that the health of its members will be compromised if they exercise their Treaty 8 rights to harvest in the area. Dene Tha' members may be unable to harvest in the vicinity of the spill for many years as a result of this spill. Dene Tha' Lands Department has issued a community health and safety advisory for possible industrial contamination of water, lands, vegetation, wildlife, waterfowl and fish resources relied upon for hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering activities in the following eight (8) Townships; 115 & 116 05-W6M, 114 to 116-06-W6M, and; 114 to 116-07-W6M. Alberta has publically stated that the Hay/Zama Lake has not been affected by the spill at this time.
When a Dene Tha' field technician visited the site on June 6th, he noted that all plants and trees affected by the spill had died, and that the contamination had saturated the muskeg in the area. He also found spill material in an uncontained culvert, prompting concerns that the spill may not be fully contained. On June 13th, a field technician advised that fluid is still being released from the pipe, but is now contained within in a storage pit that is pumped out into holding tanks. Given the amount of dead vegetation in the area - which was clearly visible from a helicopter - Dene Tha' worries that the spill may have been occurring for a long period of time, although Apache has advised the pipeline breach was reported on June 1st.
The Energy Resources Conservation Board did not contact Dene Tha' to discuss details of the spill until 11 days after the date Apache believes the spill occurred. After the Pace oil spill last year, Dene Tha' raised concerns with the ERCB about old oil and gas infrastructure in its Territory and stressed the need for emergency shut-off devices on all facilities, as well as pressure and volume monitors. Had these precautions been in place, the Apache spill may not have occurred or contaminated such a large area.
Given the increasing number of spills that have occurred in its Territory recently, Dene Tha' hopes that the Government of Alberta will require companies to implement more effective safety measures. Since there is a significant number of well sites, pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructure in its Traditional Territory, these measures are critical to ensure Dene Tha' is able to safely exercise its Treaty 8 rights, without fear of contamination.