Claims centre opens in Saskatchewan oil spill

PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – An insurance claim clinic has opened in Saskatchewan to help people affected by an oil spill, but both the province and Husky Energy officials says it too early to put a dollar figure on the disaster.

A Husky Energy pipeline leak detected July 21 spilled up to 250,000 litres of oil mixed with a lighter hydrocarbon into the North Saskatchewan River near Maidstone, Sask., and forced communities downstream to close drinking water intakes.

Businesses such as car washes and laundromats had to close for about two weeks until a temporary water supply was set up. Their owners are concerned about a loss of income.

Husky said people should bring documents, including receipts, invoices and bank account details, to the claims centre in Prince Albert on Friday and Saturday.

“You know I can’t get into a rundown of, ‘we will cover this, we will cover that.’ But what we’ve said, and we’ve been consistent throughout is, this is our event and we take full responsibility for it,” Husky spokesman Mel Duvall told The Canadian Press in a phone interview Friday.

Duvall could not say how many claims have already been filed. He also did not have any estimate of the cost.

Saskatchewan Emergency Management Commissioner Duane McKay says the province and municipalities are tracking the costs, but he couldn’t yet put a figure on the amount either.

“This is ongoing. We’re a ways away from the conclusion of this incident in terms of the implications,” McKay said Friday in a conference call with media.

“I think over the next few days, some clarity around figuring out what this is costing, I think that will be developed, but at this particular point, I don’t think we have a good idea.”

There was also some good news Friday for residents around Prince Albert.

The city said it has resumed its water service to rural customers because two temporary lines are now bringing in enough water from other sources.

“We are happy to say we monitored our water flow inventory over the last 24 hours and determined that we have sufficient flow to resume service back to the rural water utility,” said Prince Albert city manager Jim Toye.

Toye cautioned that “risk still remains with the infrastructure, and as such, the city reserves the right to reimpose water restrictions if necessary.”

North Battleford, Sask., also closed its water intakes after the spill. A temporary line to bring water to the city was expected to be operating by Monday. But the city said the new line will only provide about one-third of the lost water supply, so all restrictions for outside watering remain in place until further notice.

McKay says Husky has given a general commitment to the province that it will cover costs from the spill.

“How we define that and how Husky will define that obviously will be the conversation in days to come,” said McKay.

Another claim clinic is being set up for August 12 and 13 in North Battleford.

— By Jennifer Graham in Regina