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On Jan 18 an oil spill at Enbridge Pipeline, Inc.’s Rowatt Station startled Regina; the spill wasn’t as damaging the Kalamazoo oil spill, but the disaster’s shadow lingers over a province where oil and gas could be the economic future. 

 

Although some of the oil was on a resident’s farm, Enbridge publicly says there’s “no impact to the public, wildlife or waterways."  But it’s not enough to assuage concerns from some citizens.

 

“It’s probably better that it happened in the winter, when the snow caught it” and trapped the oil, said Emily Eaton, associate professor of geography at the University of Regina.  With the extra layer of snowy protection, oil could be prevented from seeping into the soil, she explained.

 

Despite this, Eaton says damage was done, nonetheless.  For Eaton it’s not a question of if harm was done, but “a matter of how much harm, I guess.”

 

“I don’t think it’s ever without some level of impact, but it depends on the conditions when it was spilled, how much was spilled,” she said.

 

Sue Deranger of the Regina Neighbourhood Oil Watch is concerned about the well-being of the environment and its citizens.  Orginally from Fort Chipewyan, Deranger says cancer is rampant on First nations reserves located near Fort McMurray and the tar sands.

 

A 2009 Alberta Cancer Board study confirmed rare cancer malignancies were more common among the communities located near oilsand sites, and a second, more thorough study will published in the future.

 

Deranger warns that Regina citizens are at risk because of Rowatt Station’s close proximity to Regina, particularly SIAST.

 

Of eight students approached at SIAST by INK, four said they had symptoms sore throats, itchy eyes and nausea, common symptoms of exposure to oil.  It's difficult to say if these symptoms resulted from spilled oil exposure or the H1N1 virus.  However one student said similar symptoms were common around her hometown of White Bear, which is surrounded by oil activity.

 

Even though the pipeline was leaking for just 30 seconds, it was enough for 125 barrels of oil to escape.  “Imagine the damage of five minutes, an hour, or a week,” said Deranger.

 

Deranger and the Neighbourhood Oil Watch are focused on information; the group wants to alert citizens to the dangers of oil transportation and oil spills.  “There’s other pipelines in Regina; White City has an Enbridge pipeline in their neighbourhood, Uplands has a pipeline running to the upgrader,” said Deranger.

 

“In Rochdale, when they were trying to widen the road they found a pipeline from the 70s.  I talked to a reporter who had gone there and she said that was just the tip of the iceberg.  They never looked to see if there were pipelines under the pipeline that leaked.”

 

While the spill’s cause is unknown as of press time, human error is the most common possibility, Eaton said.

 

A 2012 study by the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Limited found 64 percent of oil spills came from “heavy weather damage and human error.”

 

“We can have the gold standard of monitoring and there will still be pipeline accidents.  How safe are they?  We can make them safer but in the life of a pipeline the risk of rupture or failure is always there, there is always a risk for failure no matter how well monitored but certainly there are things we can do to monitor our pipelines more rigorously," said Eaton.

 

Sometimes monitoring is easier said than done, however.   “Uplands has a big pipe, and when my friend that lives there asked what they were doing they said, ‘Ooh nothing, nothing, don’t worry about it.’  As soon as he asked, they built a fence around it, as well as a light and camera, just because he asked,” Deranger said.

 

As oil companies expand in the province, Deranger worries the price could be great.  "If that's 125 barrels and more because they wanna expand, then what?"