No answers yet concerning 2.7 million litre spill on Lubicon Lake Nation territory

BY KRYSTALLINE KRAUS

Lubicon First Nation community members are still awaiting answers regarding the short and long term impacts of a 2.7 million litre oil and gas condensate spill on their traditional territory.

Murphy Oil Company Limited did send representations into the community but Chief Bernard Ominayak and the Lubicon Council are still no closer to securing answers.

The spill is equivalent (by volume) to 68 twin-tanker oil trucks dumping their loads. It is unknown for how long the three-inch pipe had been leaking.

Chief Ominayak is also concerned that his community was not alerted to the oil spill until 11 days later. He is also urging the company to draft an emergency response plan for the community in case of spills, as one does not currently exist.

“It is critical that Murphy Oil address creating an integrated emergency response plan, as we have done with other resource companies in the area, so we can alert our people as soon as these incidents occur when they are on the land exercising our Aboriginal rights,” said Chief Ominayak.

The spill of oil and gas condensate occurred on March 1, 2015, at its Seal Lake heavy oil site in Northern Alberta.

At first, Murphy Oil reported to the Alberta Energy Regulator a spill no bigger than about ninety-four barrels, but later had to recant as the spill turned out to be much bigger though accurate numbers have still not been disclosed.

The lack of information is not the fault of the Lubicon First Nation who have been attempting to reach out to Murphy Oil to determine the true extent of the spill so they can take care of their community.

Chief Ominayak has said that the health, safety and environment protection is the priority since the spill.

Lubicon Lake First Nation has an extremely small population, not even a hundred, and the Nation has been embroiled in the land claim dispute with the Government of Canada for decades.

A 2011 survey of the area found the on-reserve and Crown land population of 274 living on their traditional territory. The community of Little Buffalo is about forty-four kilometres by road from the spill site.

One of the major issues in the extraction industry’s presence in the territory and the outstanding health and environmental concerns these cause.

The oil, gas, and lumber industry on Lubicon traditional territory has caused damaging repercussions on the natural environment, the Lubicon culture and people, according to a 2008 Amnesty International report.

Condensate is a natural gas product which contains benzene which is toxic. Condensate is usually mixed with the sticky substance bitumen to make it flow through the pipelines.

The community relies on hunting and fishing on their traditional territory to augment their diet.

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