Cold Lake: Something in the Water (With Update)

Terra Informa’s Chris Chang-Yen Phillips and Nikki Wiart walk the streets of Cold Lake First Nation, Alberta in search of residents willing to share their views on the summer oil spill.

Terra Informa’s Chris Chang-Yen Phillips and Nikki Wiart walk the streets of Cold Lake First Nation, Alberta in search of residents willing to share their views on the summer oil spill.

This week on Terra Informa we are re-airing an important piece that was recorded in the area of the Cold Lake First Nation, where several leak sites have brought attention to Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.’s high-pressure steaming process of bitumen extraction. The story was originally aired nearly a year ago, and since then, not a lot has changed for the people who reside in this area, the CNRL operation there, or the Alberta Energy Regulator’s approach to projects of this sort.

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Terra Informa’s own Chris Chang-Yen Phillips, Trevor Chow-Fraser, and Nikki Wiart spoke to residents of this town and First Nation near the Saskatchewan border. You’ll hear their personal opinions and experiences surrounding the pollution Cold Lake waters experienced this summer.  Residents are speaking out about the destruction of Canadian wildlife as well as the lands their families have inhabited for years.

Canadian Natural maintains that the spill has been cleaned up and contained, but not before more than 1100 cubic meters of bitumen emulsion had been recovered from the surface spill sites, and over 82,000 tonnes of impacted solids were removed.

Cold Lake, Alberta: The Spill

You may already have heard about the bitumen leak that’s been welling up North of Cold Lake, Alberta. By the end of July over 1 million liters had seeped up in the bush and muskeg. Communications around this environmental disaster has been confusing. Canadian Natural Resources Limited finally allowed media to visit the leak on the Primrose Air Weapons Firing Range on August 8. But Terra Informa decided to head into Cold Lake itself on August 9.

We wanted to hear how this leak had affected the lives of residents in town and on the First Nations reserve. Cold Lake residents that offered up opinions and views on the situation include Doug Longmore, a staff member at the Cold Lake First Nation band office, and Karen Collins, the President of Metis Nation of Alberta Region 2.

We are happy to finally bring you these voices. In three weeks, much has changed in the way the government and CNRL are responding to the mess. But one thing hasn’t changed: in August 2013, the oil that was first discovered in May—it’s still leaking.

Location of the CNRL Primrose leaks, Pembina Institute

Location of the CNRL Primrose leaks, Pembina Institute

Though Canadian Natural originally attributed the spill to mechanical problems with faulty wellbores nearby, just last week, an initial causation report was submitted to the Alberta Energy Regulator.

According to the report, which is posted on the Canadian Natural website, both natural fractures in the capping shale above the bitumen deposit, and fractures induced by the injection of steam to help retrieve that bitumen, may have contributed to the leak.

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