Largest Oil Spill In 36 Years Hits Alberta

Northern Alberta is currently coping with their largest oil leak in over 30 years. Over 28,000 barrels (4 million litres) of oil leaked from a pipeline near Little Buffalo last weekend. The Rainbow Pipeline originates at Rainbow Lake, Alberta and runs south to Edmonton, Alberta. It carries approximately 187,000 barrels of oil per day. The leak was discovered Friday, after Plains Midstream Canada (the company that owns the pipeline) discovered the pressure in the pipeline was lower than normal. The spill was stopped that day, but the exact volume of oil spilled was not released until today — and not by the company.

The Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) released the data, stating it took several days for crews to reach the remote, heavily forested area and fully assess the damage.  The spill has spread along the path of the pipeline, but remained away from flowing water or runoff.

Meanwhile, a nearby First Nations community is dealing with widespread sickness they say is due to the leak. Lubicon Cree residents of Little Buffalo, 30 km away from the leak site, say there has been a strong odor in the area and people have experienced nausea, burning eyes and headaches since the leak began. The community has closed the school and told children to stay home for the time being. The ERCB, however, says there’s no way the illnesses could be caused by the leak because it’s “too far away” and that any issues must be due to other reasons. A community meeting with the ERCB planned for Tuesday evening was canceled, with the ERCB sending the community a “fact sheet” about the spill instead.

Several beavers and birds had to be euthanized by crews because of the oil. Long-term environmental impact is still unknown, but the spill is expected to take several weeks to be fully cleaned.

This is the second leak on the Rainbow pipeline in recent years. 7,500 barrels spilled from the pipeline in 2006. At that time, stress and wear and tear was determined to have caused the leak and owners of the pipeline were ordered to lower the system’s pressure, increase ground surveillance and conduct internal line inspections. 

Despite the new leak, it’s doubtful any fines will be issued; the worst fate Plains Midstream should expect is increased inspections, and Alberta is a very friendly home for the Oil industry.

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Photo credit: Arthur Chapman on Flickr.


William C
William Cabout a year ago

Thank you for caring.

W. C
W. Cabout a year ago

Terrible, thanks for the information.

Duane B.
.6 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

gary c.
Gary C7 years ago

Thankyou for the article....

Carole R.
Carole R7 years ago

How awful. Is there nothing that can be done to stop all these oil spills? It's ruining our world.

KARLOLINA G7 years ago

I just disgusted about all of this. Will it ever end?

Velmapearl Hawkins
Velma Hawkins7 years ago

what a terrible area for wildlife to have all their food and water supply contaminated....not to forget the human impact

Tom Sullivan
Tom C S7 years ago

Ih but wait, it is all about the money, the goverment & oil comp. are always right. WRONG!!! it is High Times we the people took back our country. Canada you need to wake up.

Robin T.
R T7 years ago

Here we go again. This was of course something that could never happen and better still if it did happen they would handle it so quickly nobody would now it had happened. Well they managed to convince the mindless descision makers who of course know better than anyone. (Well I suppose that's true as they have fatter wallets than the rest of us)

We all (except politicians) know that Oil pipelines and deep water drilling are a disaster waiting to happen. No matter what precautions are taken, but who CARES?

Make a difference, plant a tree.

Michael MacDonald

@Hope S.

hey now, be more specific.

It's the conservatives in canada you want to be blaming.

Only 39.6% of voters voted for them
so keep in mind that 60.4% voted against this government which has a majority.

The NDP and the green party don't support this and it's rough for us right now losing jack layton and all so please don't throw us in on the blame with that.
I'm depressed enough about it already.