Because that is what i keep saying to myself over and over in my head...

Melina Laboucan-Massimo at the site of an oil spill "clean up"

Melina Laboucan-Massimo at the site of an oil spill "clean up". Photo credit: Joe Whittle 

Last week, a fellow member of the community of Little Buffalo and I journeyed to the site of the April 2011 Rainbow pipeline oil spill.

 What we found was a body of water that was completely black on the surface with black sludge along the shoreline. There was no life in this body of water nor was there any vegetation along the shoreline. Instead, dead wood lined the shore and an awful smell permeated the area. After 15 months, this was not what I was expecting to find in an apparent ‘oil spill clean up area’.

Oily goo on log

Photo Credit: Joe Whittle

According to the latest update on the Plains Midstream website from July 5th, “Plains completed all of the remediated work and much of the reclamation work before the winter.”

From what I saw last week, as depicted in these pictures, this claim is clearly misleading and sorely inadequate.

It was clear that this section of the site has not been able to support a healthy return of vegetation and it should be fenced off to wildlife that could be in the area. However, we found tracks of deer and wolf near the contaminated body of water.

The supposed clean up of this site is giving false hope to the public and surrounding communities that governmental responsibility and corporate accountability are being upheld, when in reality, they are not.

But more importantly, it also raises the question of what type of government oversight or lack thereof would allow such a faulty effort to happen? It is deplorable how the health of the communities that live in close proximity to the spill site remain neglected or dismissed.

The Rainbow Pipeline spill was one of the largest spills in Alberta’s history. During the 8 hours it took to detect the spill and shut down the pipeline, over 28,000 barrels spilled into the wetlands near Little Buffalo. To watch a photo essay detailed this story click here.

We need stronger environmental standards and sufficient government oversight. I expected more from this government and this company to ensure that this spill was thoroughly tended to, especially after all my family has had to go through during and after this spill.

Alberta has been hit by three major oil spills in just over a month and suffers over 600 pipeline incidents every year. Last week, over 50 groups called on the Premier to establish an independent review that would address government oversight, regulations, enforcement, follow-up and Alberta’s pipeline infrastructure itself.

Last week we saw that Alberta’s regulators were asleep at the switch and failed to see the ‘culture of deviance’ on safety throughout the Enbridge organization that led to the largest tar sands spill in U.S. history. Now this week we see Alberta regulators aren’t ensuring adequate clean-up after the oil is spilled. It’s time we had independent eyes to give us answers we can trust.

However, we are seeing it is not enough to trust that the company will do its due diligence for such a clean up effort. I hope this will not be the case for the families and communities in and around the recent Red Deer River spill.

Update:

Half an hour before we held a press conference to release photos of what I found, the Alberta government announced a review of pipeline safety in the province. This review is, however, led by the Energy Resources Conservation Board, so it isn’t truly independent.

oily slick on water

Photo Credit: Joe Whittle