Village of Longview signs precedent setting water testing agreement with Legacy Oil & Gas Ltd. Media Release by Kathie Selbie, December 5, 2013
Residents of the Village of Longview, Alberta, located 30 minutes south of Calgary are breathing a big sigh of relief now that the municipal drinking water supply is some of the most monitored in all of Alberta. Concerns about testing arose in 2012 when residents discovered a Legacy Oil & Gas drilling program included horizontal, multi-stage hydraulic fracking of four wells in the vicinity of Longview with two of the wells being located on Village common property. Baseline and follow up water testing for fracking fluids was not included in the 2010 surface lease agreement.
Since the late 1930s Longview has seen its fair share of oil & gas extraction. The potential for chemical migration to the aquifer via operating and abandoned ghost wells in the area as a result of horizontal, multi-stage hydraulic fracturing of the strata was of great concern to many local residents. “In June of 2012 a petition was circulated insisting that Council take the most basic steps to put in place testing protocols that would ensure the fracking chemicals Legacy O & G was injecting into the ground would not impact the public drinking water supply” says Longview resident, Kathie Selbee.
Initially, Legacy O & G had been committed to a monthly, risk management program established in 1995 which included testing of the Village water supply for oil & gas related compounds. However, some residents were uneasy with this arrangement given it was a voluntary water testing program that could be discontinued at any time.
After much debate, meetings and research The Village of Longview Council took the initiative to pursue a legal and binding agreement with Legacy O & G. “Thanks to a responsive Council, the Village has firmly established a ‘canary in the coal mine’ testing protocol that will provide notice to residents should contamination occur as a result of either current or historical operations” says Selbee. “This four-year, monthly testing program allows many residents to sleep better at night knowing that the testing cannot be discontinued in the near future; and, it also buys the Village time to explore ways to improve our Alberta Environment Municipal Water Approval which is to be updated in 2017.”
The Upper Highwood River Basin’s health and water quality is a barometer for many communities in Southern Alberta. The Basin supplies water to a number of communities including Longview, Eden Valley, High River, Nanton, and Vulcan, as well as providing domestic water supply for numerous rural agriculture and country residential families in the Highwood and Little Bow Basins. “In light of the fact many of our neighbours draw their water from the Highwood Basin this historic water testing agreement really does benefit the greater community” says Selbee
Legacy O & G has gone above and beyond the current regulations governing their operations despite the fact the company has no further plans to conduct horizontal, multi-stage hydraulic fracking in the area. “What I find refreshing is that this agreement proves that when community members get together and push for meaningful monitoring, things can improve,” says Selbee. “What we have here is a relatively small producer which has signed a mandatory agreement that that will let everyone — residents, council, and the company — know if something goes wrong. This should be a wake-up call for all other operators to demonstrate that they also care about the state of the public’s drinking water and not give back with ‘bricks and mortar’ only” says Selbee.
Horizontal, multi-stage hydraulic fracking is a highly controversial process for extracting unconventional oil and gas reserves which is being challenged by communities across Canada and around the world because of numerous cases of water contamination from the process. A moratorium on fracking was put in place in Quebec in 2011 and in Newfoundland & Labrador in 2013 because of concerns about the impact on water.