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More Birds Die in Alberta

Posted by mhudema on September 10, 2008

Alberta oil leak kills 300 birds
By BILL KAUFMANN — Sun Media

Crude oil leaked from an untapped well in southeastern Alberta has killed up to 300 birds, sparking outrage among environmental critics.

The leak of 60 to 90 barrels of sweet heavy crude oil from a suspended well at CFB Suffield, 200 km southeast of Calgary, has killed hundreds of birds, said David Inkstrup, a spokesman for the federal Canadian Wildlife Service.

Drilled in 2005 but never put into production, the well is licensed to Calgary-based Harvest Energy Trust.

The latest mass death of birds is part of a disturbing trend which governments are neglecting to halt, said Greenpeace Canada spokesman Mike Hudema.

“It’s imperative there be enough people in the field to make sure these kinds of mishaps don’t occur,” said Hudema. “There seems to be an environmental incident in Alberta every week.”

Though the latest spill is on federally controlled land and monitored by Environment Canada and the province, Hudema said it’s another warning about breakneck industrial development in Alberta.

The incident evokes the death of about 500 water fowl in a Syncrude Canada oilsands tailings pond near Fort McMurray last April, said NDP MLA Rachel Notley.

“Big oil would like Albertans to feel this is just the cost of doing business, but we don’t think it’s the way it should be,” she said, adding environmental standards must be strengthened.

“Government has to re-think its approach on how we manage this part of our economy … there can never be enough inspectors.”

Both staff and contracted cleanup crews were working diligently to clean up the series of crude oil pools left when a downhole plug began to leak and was noticed by a survey crew Monday afternoon, said Harvest CEO John Zahary.

“It’s an unfortunate incident and we’re all a bit embarrassed,” said Zahary.

But he echoed an official with the Energy Resources Conservation Board that such leaks are rare.

“It’s extremely unusual — once every few years — though not unprecedented, obviously,” said Zahary.

“In fact, they’re becoming increasingly rare.”

He said the spill should have been cleaned up by last night.

The ERCB said no water bodies were threatened by the spill that occurred some distance from the Suffield National Wildlife Area.

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