Apache spills another 1.8 million litres of toxic wastewater near Zama, Third pipeline leak discovered in northern Alberta by Meagan Wohlberg, November 29, 2013, Westcoastnativenews.com
Just one week after Apache Canada announced it had determined the cause of the largest pipeline spill in recent North American history, a third leak was discovered on the company’s property near Zama City in the northwestern corner of Alberta at the end of October. The oil and gas producer’s third spill in the area this year is estimated to have released 1.8 million litres of “produced” wastewater, containing oil and other chemicals, onto an estimated 3.8 hectares of land. Though Apache estimates the leak began on Oct. 3, it was not discovered until Friday, Oct. 25 when a company operator went out to investigate a volume discrepancy at the company’s Shekilie site approximately 35 km northwest of Zama City.
According to the company, 2,400 cubic metres of recovered fluid has been transferred off-site and disposed of at a licensed, third-party facility. A team of personnel and external environmental experts remain onsite for remediation. “Water recovery and sampling operations are still underway and will continue as weather permits,” Apache spokesperson Paul Wyke told The Journal in an email.
He said the leaked water, which comes from formation fluids extracted during oil and gas operations, had already been treated to remove hydrocarbons, but that “produced water” contains naturally occurring oil, gas, non-potable water, salt and other minerals. [BTEX, toxic metals, radioactivity?]
Though the water contained only trace amounts of hydrocarbons, the high salt content killed most impacted vegetation, including trees. The leaked amount was originally incorrectly reported at 9.5 million litres due to an incorrect meter reading, according to the company, which has installed a new meter and put in place new internal procedures “to help prevent future underestimations.” A second spill was also detected this year, but was so small that a volume was not released.
June spill caused by ‘stress corrosion cracking’
Apache announced the findings of its investigation into the June spill on Oct. 18, saying the pipeline failure was caused by cracking due to the stress of corrosion [because of the toxic, corrosive contents of the produced waste water?], despite the pipeline being less than 5 years old.
“Water sampling and soil testing in the spring of 2014 at both sites will help form the basis to revise the remediation plan in regards to further required removal and disposal of affected water, soil and organics,” Wyke said.