Husky and Husky Oil Operations Ltd. have pleaded guilty to charges in connection with a 225,000-litre pipeline spill in Saskatchewan nearly three years ago.
The Calgary-based companies entered guilty pleas to three environmental charges on Wednesday in Lloydminster provincial court. Several charges were withdrawn.
Husky pleaded guilty under the Fisheries Act that on or between July 20 and July 21, 2016, it “did deposit or permit the deposit of a deleterious substance, namely blended heavy crude oil, in water frequented by fish or in a place where the deleterious substance may enter water frequented by fish, namely the North Saskatchewan River near Maidstone, Saskatchewan.”
Husky also pleaded guilty under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act that on or between July 20 and July 21, 2016, it “did deposit or permit the deposit of a substance that is harmful to migratory birds, namely blended heavy crude oil, in waters or in an area frequented by migratory birds, or in a place from which the substance may enter such waters or such area near Maidstone, Saskatchewan.”
A 16-inch pipeline failed late on July 20, 2016 and leaked for at least seven hours before it was shut down for routine maintenance the following morning. Husky subsequently attributed the failure to ground movement. The resulting oil plume flowed hundreds of kilometres downstream, forcing North Battleford and Prince Albert to establish secondary sources of drinking water.
According to an agreed statement of facts read by Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga, the pipeline was “not designed to withstand the geotechnical activity, specifically oil movement, it subsequently experienced.”
Court heard the pipeline’s leak detection systems sounded multiple alarms on July 19 and July 20, which Husky attributed to the planned shutdown and restart of the pipeline system on July 19.
To date, court heard, Husky has spent $144 million in response to the spill.
In a victim impact statement read in court, Little Pine First Nation Chief Wayne Semaganis said “incomplete” cleanup caused “extensive damage to the environment in and around reserve lands.”
Hunting and fishing, as well as trapping in and around the river, have been “severely impacted,” Semaganis said.
Approximately 40 per cent of the 225,000 litres made it into the North Saskatchewan River. The first report of the spill came from a private citizen who called the Saskatchewan government after seeing oil on the river near the Toby Nollet Bridge.
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