Sickening oilpatch odours return to northwestern Alberta

A resurgence of sickening, gassy smells from Alberta's northwestern oilsands have residents increasingly impatient over a problem they thought had been solved.

See Full Article

"You can smell the absolute presence of gas," said Garrett Tomlinson, reeve of Northern Sunrise County near Peace River.

"It was to the point of making them sick -- headaches, and all those things that we thought had been rectified."

Two years ago, people in communities such as Three Creeks earned national headlines when they complained that constant tarry reeks from nearby oilsands plants using an unusual processing method were driving them from their land.

Residents complained of headaches, nausea, diarrhea, and said their livestock was similarly affected, with cattle spontaneously aborting calves.

The Alberta Energy Regulator investigated and released a report in March 2014 that called for stricter emissions controls. Air-monitoring equipment was installed and new regulations took effect last October.

But the familiar petrochemical miasmas returned shortly after.

"It has been an ongoing thing, but we noticed it as a significant issue since mid-December," Tomlinson said. "That's when I started getting regular phone calls and emails from residents saying, 'This is an issue."'

Documents released by the county suggest complaints began increasing toward the end of November. During the last two weeks of that month, the county recorded seven odour events complete with health effects from joint pain to exhaustion.

"This is not acceptable," said county administrator Peter Thomas in a Dec. 29 email to his staff.

"Laws have been changed and equipment is in place to determine when there are issues. Now, when we can confirm there is an issue, we have no one to take action?"

The problem, said Doug Dallyn of the Peace River Air Monitoring Program, is that monitoring stations don't automatically alert industry and government when the air is bad -- even though that's well within their capabilities.

"I'm pushing the government to say, 'You made the industry put these air stations in and now you won't even recognize the ability these stations have?'

"Why are (regulators) not being told and why are (they) waiting until two days afterwards to start trying to look for a leak that isn't there any more?"

Sunrise officials bemoan the lack of on-the-ground enforcement.

"There has to be an authority that can go do a site visit and be empowered to shut things down and issue a fine," wrote Thomas.

The regulator said it is still developing regulations to deal specifically with the Peace River oilsands play. The agency had been scheduled to discuss them with the county on Thursday, but was forced to reschedule to digest the large number of public comments it had received.

"The (regulator) has received and continues to follow up on odour complaints in the Three Creeks area," said spokeswoman Melanie Veriotes in an email.

"Our inspectors respond to all concerns and emergencies around the clock and, when requested, report back to the concerned Albertan on the findings."

Operators in the area include Shell Canada, Baytex Energy (TSX:BTE.UN) and Murphy Oil. Dallyn said no one company has been linked to any of the emission events.



Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • Russia says oil production cuts may continue to boost prices

    Economic CTV News
    KUWAIT CITY -- Russia's energy minister says there's "94 per cent" compliance on a six-month oil production cut among OPEC members and non-cartel nations, as well as discussions about continuing the cuts to boost crude prices. Source
  • Iran imposes sanctions on 15 U.S. companies

    Economic CTV News
    TEHRAN, Iran - Iran has imposed sanctions on 15 American companies over their alleged support for Israel, terrorism and repression in the region. A Foreign Ministry statement carried by the state-run IRNA news agency Sunday said the companies are barred from any agreements with Iranian firms and that former and current directors will not be eligible for visas. Source
  • How to roll up the rim without buying coffee

    Economic CBC News
    You don't need to make a purchase to enter contests such as Tim Hortons' Roll Up The Rim To Win. But sometimes the alternatives are just as costly. (Tim Hortons ) Despite the well-known slogan, you don't actually have to roll up the rim to win. Source
  • Convenience or comparison? Why sticking with 1 bank might not be the best option

    Economic CBC News
    Consumers love the convenience of one-stop shopping for their financial needs — but it could be costing them. In a poll conducted by Ipsos and commissioned by LowestRates.ca, an online interest rate comparison site, six in 10 Canadian respondents said they prefer to have all their financial products and credit cards at one bank. Source
  • More TV streaming services join U.S. market, leaving Canada far behind

    Economic CBC News
    YouTube's announcement that it will soon launch an online TV streaming service cut deep for some Canadians. That's because it's not coming here. YouTube TV will offer more than 40 live TV channels for only $35 US a month. Source
  • Poker tables keep decreasing on Las Vegas casino floors

    Economic CTV News
    LAS VEGAS -- When the Monte Carlo closes its eight-table poker room in about a month as part of a $450 million overhaul, the Las Vegas Strip will have lost nearly a quarter of the tables it had a decade ago. Source
  • Las Vegas casinos continue to close poker rooms

    Economic CTV News
    LAS VEGAS -- When the Monte Carlo casino closes its eight-table poker room in about a month as part of a $450 million overhaul, the Las Vegas Strip will be down nearly a quarter of the tables it had a decade ago. Source
  • Google's YouTube loses more advertisers over offensive videos

    Economic CBC News
    An advertising boycott of YouTube is broadening, a sign that big-spending companies doubt Google's ability to prevent marketing campaigns from appearing alongside repugnant videos. PepsiCo, Walmart Stores and Starbucks on Friday confirmed that they have also suspended their advertising on YouTube after the Wall Street Journal found Google's automated programs placed their brands on five videos containing racist content. Source
  • National contest tries to convince students that lucrative sales jobs are 'sexy'

    Economic CBC News
    Sonya Meloff wants everyone to know that a career in sales is sexy. Not sleazy. "I think that sales is a really sexy job," says the founder of the Toronto's Sales Talent Agency. "You get to be at the forefront of representing a company, you're the one that gets to talk to the customers. Source
  • Report examines grim Bangladesh leather trade, links to West

    Economic CTV News
    DHAKA, Bangladesh -- Hazardous, heavily polluting tanneries, with workers as young as 14, supplied leather to companies that make shoes and handbags for a host of Western brands, a non-profit group that investigates supply chains says. Source