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Enbridge oil spill clean-up underway
First Nations seek comprehensive agreement with pipeline company

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 19, 2011

DEH CHO - First Nations that have Enbridge Pipelines Inc's pipeline running through their traditional territory are viewing a recent oil spill as an example of why they need a negotiated agreement with the company.

NNSL photo/graphic

Clean-up is underway at the site of Enbridge Pipelines Inc.'s oil spill located approximately 50 kilometres south of Wrigley. - photo courtesy of Enbridge Pipelines Inc.

On May 17 representatives from Pehdzeh Ki First Nation, Liidlii Kue First Nation, Jean Marie River First Nation, Fort Simpson Metis Nation, Dehcho First Nation and Enbridge met in Fort Simpson.

The meeting had been previously arranged by the company to consult on a land use permit that it needs to renew in order to have continued access to their pipeline's right of way for operational and maintenance activities, said Chief Jim Antoine of Liidlii Kue First Nation.

In light of the May 9 oil spill from Enbridge's pipeline that runs from Norman Wells to Zama, Alta., the meeting focused on that issue.

"There was a lot of concerns," Antoine said.

First Nation representatives questioned Enbridge on why they weren't able to detect the leak with their equipment.

The leak was first detected by hunters from Pehdzeh Ki First Nation who were in the area and noticed an odour. They contacted Enbridge who sent out an emergency response crew that confirmed the leak.

There were also discussions on how First Nations should be notified in the case of incidents. There is currently no agreed-upon method, said Antoine.

During the course of the meeting Enbridge was made aware that Dehcho First Nations and the First Nations it represents would like to have a comprehensive agreement with the company. An agreement is needed to address topics including spill notification, business opportunities and even compensation. Antoine said he's previously had band members ask him why, to date, Liidlii Kue First Nation hasn't received payments from Enbridge for having the pipeline on their traditional land.

Enbridge representatives at the meeting said they weren't in a position to deal with discussions of that nature but Grand Chief Samuel Gargan will be following up with a formal letter.

"This hopefully starts a dialogue to start to address these concerns," said Antoine.

Representatives at the meeting were also brought up to date on the clean-up that's underway at the spill site.

As of May 17 the company had approximately 40 people, including contracted workers from Pehdzeh Ki First Nation, Fort Simpson and across Canada, at the site located around 50 kilometres south of Wrigley.

The focus is on the recovery of oil and contaminated soil, said Gina Jordan, an Enbridge spokesperson.

Contaminated soil is being excavated and stored and beginning on May 15 oil was being skimmed off of a small pond created by melting snow, Jordan said. Enbridge lost approximately four barrels of sweet crude oil from the leak.

The pipeline was closed at the time of the incident because it connects to Rainbow Pipeline, owned by Plains Midstream Canada, that spilled approximately 28,000 barrels of crude oil near Peace River, Alta. on April 29. Enbridge's pipeline was still shut down on May 17.

Antoine was at the site on a tour on May 14 when the pipeline was dug up and the defect that the oil leaked from was identified.

"It was like a little pin hole and it was squirting the oil out," he said.

The release was stopped and preparations were being made to repair the line and then restart it.

The exact cause of the leak still hasn't been determined, Jordan said.

The released oil is contained in an area approximately 60 by 20 metres in the pipeline's right of way. The spill is approximately 150 metres south east of Willowlake River and hasn't affected any moving water, Jordan said.

"For Enbridge our priorities are the safety of the people and the protection of the environment," she said.

The company doesn't have an estimate for how long the reclamation of the site will take, Jordan said.

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