Alberta Environment Charges SemCAMS K-A

| February 18, 2012

SemCAMS, ULC’s Kaybob Amalgamated Processing Plant plant (K-A), faces numerous charges under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) following an 18 month investigation into a pipeline failure.

An estimated 850,000 litres (850 cubic meters) of produced water was released into a nearby creek, resulting in a total of 5 environmental charges.

“Almost one kilometre of the creek, and associated wetlands were impacted, including a substantial fish kill,” according to a joint statement issued by Alberta Environment and Water, and Environment Canada. “Other aquatic life and plants in the watercourse and wetland were also destroyed.”

The EPEA is the provincial regulator administered through Alberta Environment and Water. It sets out activities, conditions and expectations to support and promote the protection, enhancement and wise use of the environment. Their charges are:

    • releasing or permitting the release into the environment of a substance that causes or may cause a significant adverse effect;
    • failure to report the release to the proper authorities as soon as it occurred;
    • failure to take all reasonable measures to repair, remedy and confine the effects of the substance; and
    • failure to take all reasonable measures to remediate, manage, remove or otherwise dispose of the substance in such a manner as to prevent an adverse effect or further adverse effect.

Environment Canada also charged SemCAMS under the federal Fisheries Act as a result of the Aug 7-8, 2010 pipeline incident.

The company is expected to make its first appearance in provincial court on Monday, April 23 in Fox Creek.

In May, 2009, SemCAMS was issued an enforcement order for failing to maintain ambient air quality monitoring equipment at Kaybob South Beaverhill Lake Unit Number 3 plant (K-3). The plant, according to Alberta Environment, failed to comply with Alberta’s Air Monitoring Directive on a number of occasions. A third party review and audit was ordered and conducted to ensure compliance.

Implications for Fox Creek

On Valentines Day, the provincial government announced it’s taken immediate action to boost environmental monitoring and allocated 11 million in new funding to protect air, land, water and biodiversity.

Alberta’s reputation is at stake. All initial reports indicate that the oil sands region will receive the most attention, although the program is intended to be a province-wide “commitment to increased openness and transparency.”

Beginning this field season, the enhanced provincial system will improve Alberta’s ability to detect and manage “the cumulative effects of increased development and ensure resources are managed responsibly,” according to the report.

Facility and compliance inspections, as well as compulsory reporting, and tougher regulation will affect operations at the aging infrastructure, in the Fox Creek area.

With the international spotlight on the oil sands, the project’s magnitude will claim most of the province’s new resources, and by extension, may render smaller pockets of oil and gas activity to a little less scrutiny therefore, remaining comparatively under-reported, good or bad.

This will be a challenging year for Alberta’s oil patch, no matter how big, or small, new or old the operation, as it strives to defend, gain support and recognition for its environmental integrity.

It’s your turn – in FOCUS

Are we, the FC patch, doing enough to protect the local environment?

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  1. Barb says:

    Just noticed, I could-a, should-a worded the “Meeting imposed regulation is nearly impossible here.” option better.

    In retrospect, it doesn’t distinguish whether that means:
    a. because government imposed regulation is unreasonably high, or
    b. because existing infrastructure is beyond retro-fitting to or maintaining at current regulatory standards.
    c. because workers don’t have the resources or support to exercise their best options.

    Those willing to comment on the distinction, please do. And, my apologies – I fell a little behind the learning curve on that one.

    As always, thanks for taking your turn in FOCUS.

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  2. Larry davidson says:

    That reply about cobra and Kodiak. Who ever he or she is ..was pretty close. one day I would like to tell the whole story about what happened. But would fill 10 pages and make a lot of horrible people look stupid. But I see Cams and BP got rid of some of them already. I hope I live long enough to see Cams start to nurture the people in fox to return.

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  3. Long time resident says:

    This is not the first time KA has almost killed smoke lake. 40 years ago the plant let their holding pond run over into the inlet to smoke lake. Some members of my family worked on the cleanup.

    The plant owned by Hudson’s Bay then, also claimed the spill was produced water. However the cleanup crew found out otherwise, Yes there were dead fish and aquatic plants, but the crews witnessed beavers scratching at their skin and eyes until they bleed and many were found dead on the banks of the creek.

    The workers got severe skin rashes from working, removing the dead animals and vegetation. What was spilled was whole lot more than produced water it also contained high levels of acid . Which I am not sure was ever disclosed by the company.

    Since taking over these plants SemCams has done everything in its power to kill Fox Creek. the only time they use local service companies is when their chosen contractors from Whitecourt or Edmonton are not available.

    They bus their employees from Whitecourt at huge cost rather than investing in Fox Creek to make it a better place to live. They brought in Cobra Contracting to replace Kodiak. Cobra was supposed to set up offices in Fox Creek and give a percentage of their gross profit back to the town which never happened. They most recently have forced retirement on many their long term employees that live in Fox Creek.

    I hope the Judge throws the book at them so hard they have to sell the plants. Maybe the next company that come in will harvest the resources but leave our lakes and forests unpolluted. But they will probably get away with just a slap on the wrist.

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    • Barb says:

      In a Feb. 17, press release Alberta Environment characterized the “alleged release as a mixture consisting of mostly saline wastewater with some hydrocarbons.”

      Hydrocarbons are defined as: any of numerous organic compounds, such as benzene and methane, that contain only carbon and hydrogen. They are found in coal, crude oil, natural gas, and plant life. Hydrocarbons are used as fuels, solvents, and as raw materials for numerous products such as dyes, pesticides, and plastics; petroleum is a mixture of several hydrocarbons.

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  4. Jenn says:

    “Almost one kilometre of the creek, and associated wetlands were impacted, including a substantial fish kill,” according to a joint statement issued by Alberta Environment and Water, and Environment Canada. “Other aquatic life and plants in the watercourse and wetland were also destroyed.”

    That’s why I don’t eat fish from Smoke Lake.

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