Residents, including children, sick after large oil spill in the Peace Region

4 May 2011 (Edmonton) — Little Buffalo community members, including school children, continue to experience nausea, burning eyes and headaches after one of the largest pipeline spills in Alberta history last Friday by Plains All American leaked nearly 30,000 barrels of oil into Lubicon traditional territory in the Peace Region of Northern Alberta.

Instead of attending an in-person community meeting, the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) faxed a one-page fact sheet to Little Buffalo School. The fact sheet indicates that 28,000 barrels of crude oil, or 4,500 cubic metres, has spread into nearby stands of “stagnant water.” The spill, April 29 at 7:30 a.m., occurred only 300 metres from local waterways. The ERCB said the spill has been contained, but community members report that the oil is still leaking into the surrounding forest and bog. The ERCB also said to the community that there is “no threat to public safety as a result of the leak.” Yet people are still getting sick, the local school has been shut down and children ordered to stay at home. An investigation into the incident is underway.

“It has been four days since classes were suspended due to the noxious odours in the air. The children and staff at the school were disorientated, getting headaches and feeling sick to their stomachs,” said Brian Alexander, the principle of Little Buffalo School. “We tried to send the children outside to get fresh air as it seemed worse in the school but when we sent them out they were getting sick as well”.

“The company and the ERCB have given us little information in the past five days. What we do know is that the health of our community is at stake,” said Chief Steve Nosky. “Our children cannot attend school until there is a resolution, The ERCB is not being accountable to our community; they did not even show up to our community meeting to inform us of the unsettling situation we are dealing with. The company is failing to provide sufficient information to us so we can ensure that the health and safety of our community is protected.”

The ERCB fact sheet states that air monitors are in place on site and have “detected no hydrocarbon levels above Alberta Ambient Air Quality guidelines.” But this is little consolation for a community that is scared to breathe the air. Veronica Okemow has six children, the youngest one attending the school, and she is very worried. “We are deeply concerned about the health effects on the community,” Okemow said. “It is a scary thing when your children are feeling sick from the air. People are scared to breathe in the fumes.”

Pipeline Companies are constantly trying to ensure the public that these massive pipelines crossing North America are safe.

“With TransCanada and Enbridge pipeline corporations vying to build massive pipelines to the Pacific and Gulf Coasts, First Nation and American Indian Tribes near the path of these pipelines currently have tribal resolutions opposing the construction of these pipelines.  They foresee that these proposed pipelines would endanger their water, air and lands, for future generations.  Alberta’s big oil companies are putting our communities at risk for a short ranged economic gain”, Says Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Melina Laboucan-Massimo, a member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation and also a Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner said:

“The Plains All American spill marks the second pipeline spill in Alberta in just a week, with Kinder Morgan spilling just days before. This is an alarm bell for Alberta residents. If this 45-year-old pipeline were to break elsewhere along its route there would be more safety and health hazards. Communities across Alberta and B.C. are demanding an end to this type of risky development; yet the government refuses to listen. Instead it continues on as business as usual without plans for the cleaner, healthier, sustainable future that is possible.”

See CBC News article on pipeline-leak here.

Edmonton Journal Health concerns after Northern Alberta spill

APTN  Oil spill threatens Lubicon

Pipeline spill could take years to clean up

For more information, please contact:

Steve Nosky, Chief of the Lubicon Cree, (780) 649-4466

Brian Alexander, Principle of Little Buffalo School, (780) 629 -2210 (h) (403) 397-9779 (c)

Melina Laboucan-Massimo, member of the Lubicon Cree and Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner,(780) 504-5567

Jessica Wilson, Greenpeace communications, (778) 228-5404



Please help demand that the ERCB and Plains Midstream meet Lubicon needs now. The Lubicon require the following:

  • ERCB to attend Lubicon community meetings to effectively answer community members’ questions
  • Independent environmental assessment reporting to community
  • Lubicon fly-over of the spill-affected area to survey immediate damage to traditional territory
  • Health response team stationed in Lubicon community immediately to respond to those who continue to get sick from the air, especially children
  • Note that other First Nations and communities in the area have not even been informed of the spill

Contact ERCB as soon as possible via phone, fax, or email:

Dan McFadyen, Chairman

Energy Resources Conservation Board, Suite 1000, 250 – 5 Street SW, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 0R4
Chairman’s phone: (403) 297-2215
FAX: (403) 297-7336

Also direct pressure to Alberta Premier:

Office of the Premier, Room 307, Legislature Building, 10800 – 97th Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, T5K 2B7

Fax: (780) 427 1349

12 Responses to “Residents, including children, sick after large oil spill in the Peace Region”

  1. John says:

    Who the hell is Steve Nosky? The Lubicon Chief is still Bernard Ominayak and thats who Plains Midstream met with this morning.

  2. I don’t have television but do have access to the internet and am grateful that there are community members out on the internet waves who make this information known to those of us who are otherwise unaware. Naturally indigenous peoples have known of these hazards and have been ‘complaining’ as Indian Affairs always likes to say, to the federal government since the late 1700s about the use of poisons even in those times. The fact that indigenous peoples have yet to be heard is unspeakable. The Terra Nullus notion has been finally put to rest, so it’s time for the dominant society to realize that we are no longer considered ‘invisible’ peoples on ‘vacant’ lands. Communication and knowledge is key to awareness, so ‘chi-miigwetch’ for all who have spread this information onto the internet. One never knows just how much information government sponsored radio and newspapers will allow to be made available.

  3. Donna Meness says:

    The Canadian government cancelled an 18-month investigation into water pollution from the Alberta tar sands. No reason was given for the cancellation, or for the destruction of preliminary reports from the investigation.

    course…Its not surprising Feds have decided against an inquiry as its risky business to say the least. As Feds heavily invest CPP funds in a Tar Sands operation so Canadians now own 1/3 shares….sigh

    The largest industrial project on the planet, the Tar Sands, and two of the top Tar Sands investors – Royal Bank and Petro Canada/Suncor.

    The Royal Bank of Canada is the largest financier of Tar Sands expansions and Petro Canada/Suncor directly operates six Tar Sands projects, is a major supporter of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline – a project set to devastate communities and land throughout Alberta, BC and the Northwest Territories –

    During construction of the UE-1 project in northern Alberta, Syncrude exposed thousands of their craft workers to high levels of toxins when a boiler was shut down for repair, and harmful gases (that would normally have been burned) were pumped out of a nearby smokestack in raw form. The “Plume of Doom” lasted a week, with hundreds seeking medical attention at Syncrude’s First Aid facilities. However, because of the massive oil profits to be lost from project delays, Syncrude actually forced the unionized construction workers to stay and work in the toxic cloud for several days, under possible threat of ten thousand dollar fines.


    Meanwhile, it’s likely that the bigger fish, the bigger corporate lobbyists are still protected under the veil of secrecy &backroom dealings. I mean what was the removal of external Environmental Assessment oversight on the Oil Sands development about? LIkely the result of Lobbyist actions, likely to the long-tem detriment to water quality, community health, etc.

    The oil sands production still:

    a) uses 40% of Alberta’s natural gas total usage, driving up natural gas prices;

    b) diverts twice the volume of water from the Athabasca River that the city of Calgary uses causing levels in Lake Athabasca to plummet;

    c) takes 4 times the amount of carbon to produce a barrel than conventional methods and is one of the single largest emitters of carbon in the world;

    d) produced 50 square kilometers of filthy, toxic tailing ponds deadly to wildlife.

    It doesn’t matter how many oil rigs sink, that isn’t going to change the fact the oil sands is one colossal environmental stink bomb, and that the big oil companies, that get special tax breaks for developing them from the Harper government, want to triple production.

  4. Donna Meness says:

    SAGD operators recycle the water they use. Most companies are now recycling 90% of the water used for steam generation, and all have targets of 100% recycling of steam water.

    “Believe it or not, oil company CEOs and employees care about the environment too.” This is a common misleading statement made by the industry.

    In fact 100% of the water that is used for bitumen extraction in SAGd operations is removed from the hydrological cycle. On the books, SAGd facilities at their most efficient use 3 or 4 barrels of water for every barrel of heavy crude they produce (most are far less efficient), and they loose about 10 % of that to evaporative losses, this is where they get their 90% recycle rate. But what most people don’t understand is that any fresh water taken from surface or ground water sources for production purposes ends up being left in the intestitial spaces of the payzone after the hydrocarbons are liberated or is pumped into deep disposal caverns once it is too contaminated to be reused in the production cycle.

    This water is effectively removed from the hydrologic cycle, it might as well be siphoned of the earth and sent to the moon.

    In the Cold Lake area, the equivalent volume of a 4 km square lake 10 m deep has been lost to produce heavy crude. If SAGd operations were actually capable of recycling 100% of the fresh water they used then they would only require one barrel of fresh water to process all of the bitumen reserves in the province.

    Opti-Nexen’s regulatory request for SAGD operation was 2.4 barrels of steam/barrel bitumen, supposedly ground water. In 2009 Opti reported they were consuming 5-6 barrels of steam per barrel of bitumen.

    Their ground water source will not meet their needs as they now have a request to build a fresh water intake on an Alberta Heritage river, the Clearwater. There are too many SAGD operation all relying on ground water as their source, not sustainable

  5. Donna Meness says:

    Canadian negotiators have also included a controversial investor-
    state dispute mechanism like the one in NAFTA. The Chapter 11 dispute process has allowed and encouraged large multinationals to sue North American governments for compensation against public health and environmental policies that limit corporate profits.

    The Trade Justice Network has outlined a list of 11 demands that its
    members feel must be met in any trade deal with Europe. These include: a comprehensive impact assessment of the deal on the economy, jobs, poverty, gender, human rights, farmers, culture and the environment; a fundamental protection for public services and expansion of social policy; a recognition of and protection for the right to use public procurement as an economic development tool, and of the right to regulate in the public interest based on the precautionary principle; a commitment to strengthen labour and environmental protections and make them as binding, if not more binding, than investor guarantees,and a recognition of the primacy of Indigenous Rights over corporate rights in Indigenous lands, territories and waters.

    Historical/Legal Context:

    * 60 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights did not include water explicitly. This has created the opportunity for some governments to deny that such a right exists despite …

  6. Donna Meness says:

    Bituminous sands, colloquially known as oil sands or tar sands, are a type of unconventional petroleum deposit. The sands contain naturally occurring mixtures of sand, clay, water, and a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum technically referred to as bitumen (or colloquially “tar” due to its similar appearance, odour, and colour). Oil sands are found in large amounts in many countries throughout the world, but are found in extremely large quantities in Canada and Venezuela.

    The crude bitumen contained in the Canadian oil sands is described by Canadian authorities as petroleum that exists in the semi-solid or solid phase in natural deposits. Bitumen is a thick, sticky form of crude oil, so heavy and viscous (thick) that it will not flow unless heated or diluted with lighter hydrocarbons. At room temperature, it is much like cold molasses.

    Making liquid fuels from oil sands requires energy for steam injection and refining. This process generates two to four times the amount of greenhouse gases per barrel of final product as the production of conventional oil. If combustion of the final products is included, the so-called “Well to Wheels” approach, oil sands extraction, upgrade and use emits 10 to 45% more greenhouse gases than conventional crude.

    Naturally occurring bitumen is chemically more similar to asphalt than to tar, and the term oil sands (or oilsands) is more commonly used in the producing areas than tar sands because synthetic oil is what is manufactured from the bitumen.

    Because extra-heavy oil and bitumen flow very slowly, if at all, toward producing wells under normal reservoir conditions, the sands must be extracted by strip mining or the oil made to flow into wells by in situ techniques, which reduce the viscosity by injecting steam, solvents, and/or hot air into the sands. These processes can use more water and require larger amounts of energy than conventional oil extraction, although many conventional oil fields also require large amounts of water and energy to achieve good rates of production.

    Oil sands operations have an adverse effect on the environment. Oil sands projects affect: the land when the bitumen is initially mined and with large deposits of toxic chemicals; the water during the separation process and through the drainage of rivers; and the air due to the release of carbon dioxide and other emissions, as well as deforestation. Additional indirect environmental effects are that the petroleum products produced are mostly burned, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.Heavy metals such as vanadium, nickel, lead, cobalt, mercury, chromium, cadmium, arsenic, selenium, copper, manganese, iron and zinc are present in oil sands.

    Air monitoring has shown significant increases in exceedances of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) both in the Fort McMurray area and near the oil sands upgraders.

    A large part of oil sands mining operations involves clearing trees and brush from a site and removing the “overburden” — the topsoil, muskeg, sand, clay and gravel — that sits atop the oil sands deposit.

    Approximately two tons of oil sands are needed to produce one barrel of oil (roughly 1/8 of a ton).

    Scientists, local doctors, and residents supported a letter sent to the Prime Minister in September 2010 calling for an independent study of Lake Athabasca (which is downstream of the oil sands) to be initiated due to the rise of deformities and tumors found in fish caught there. The bulk of the research that defends the oil sands development is done by the Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program, RAMP. RAMP studies show that deformity rates are normal compared to historical data and the deformity rates in rivers upstream of the oil sands. It should be noted that RAMP is affiliated with the oil industry and its research data is submitted to environmental government agencies but unlike academia where peer review happens on a per study basis, RAMP does a peer review of the entire organization only once every five years.–deformed-fish-found-in-lake-downstream-from-oilsands

  7. Donna Meness says:

    In December 2010, the Oil Sands Advisory Panel, commissioned by former environment minister Jim Prentice, found that the system in place for monitoring water quality in the region, including work by the Regional Aquatic Monitoring Program, the Alberta Water Research Institute, the Cumulative Environmental Management Association and others, was piecemeal and should become more comprehensive and coordinated.


    Duty Calls: Federal Responsibility in Canada’s Oilsands


    Overview of Indigenous concerns

  8. Donna Meness says:

    Canadian Aboriginal Concerns With Oilsands

    A compilation of key issues, resolutions and legal activities

    Aboriginal communities have been raising concerns about the impacts of oilsands development on their communities and their legal rights for a number of years. Increasingly, these concerns are manifesting themselves as formal resolutions and legal challenges. This briefing note outlines their key concerns, shares their commentary and provides an overview of resolutions and legal issues.

  9. […] Residents, including children, sick after large oil spill in the … […]

  10. […] 29 at 7:30 a.m., occurred only 300 metres from local waterways. The ERCB said the spill … .. Share and […]

  11. Zuzanna says:

    Sign this petition, if you’re saying NO to the Keystone XL Pipeline!!!!!!!!!!

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