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30th July 2016
Prince Albert, Sask., prepares to test the water from oil spill bypass line

The city hopes water pumped from the South Saskatchewan River will start flowing to homes today

CBC News Posted: Jul 30, 2016 1:45 PM CT Last Updated: Jul 30, 2016 1:45 PM CT

Water pumped from the South Saskatchewan River to quench the thirst of a city affected by the Husky oil spill could start flowing Saturday afternoon if testing goes as planned.

The City of Prince Albert has high hopes that a 30-kilometre water line will be a temporary solution to its water shortage.

The city has a limited supply after it was forced to close its water intake system from the North Saskatchewan River due to a pipeline leak upstream.

The spill, from a Husky Energy pipeline near Maidstone, Sask., led to some 200,000 to 250,000 litres of heavy oil reaching the river. Officials said that clean up efforts had collected about 106,000 litres of material.

So far, six kilometres have been cleaned along the river where the leak originated. Wes Kotyk, the executive director of Environmental Protection for the provincial government, said they remain in the preliminary stages of cleaning.

Cleaning efforts are advancing at two kilometres per day, he said. Work is also underway to survey a 38-kilometre long stretch of river to determine if there are any problem areas.

Prince Albert started work on two alternate supply lines earlier in the week.

Residents face fines of up to $1,000 for breaching water restrictions introduced after the spill.

City manager Jim Toye said Saturday morning that he hoped the water line from the South Saskatchewan River would be operational in the afternoon.

Residents of the city still have some access to drinking water, which is being drawn from a storm water retention pond, but that is expected to run out by early next week. Non-potable water is available through the cities reservoirs.

The stakes are also high for people living in the Rural Municipality of Prince Albert, whose water supply has been shut down completely.

They are relying on stored water and deliveries of water that is under an cautionary advisory from the RM's water utility service. The City of Prince Albert usually sells and supplies treated water to the RM, but it has cut off that supply.

The city will not restart the pumps to rural communities until it knows how much water the new line can provide.

Testing of the water pipeline was underway on Saturday morning, with workers going pump to pump to check on the flow.

The water line was originally scheduled to be finished on Friday, but works were suspended that night when heavy traffic from the long weekend raised safety concerns for workers.

Testing was expected to be completed by noon, when a meeting was scheduled to decided whether to connect the line to the treatment plant.

On Friday, officials said a line set up in Little Red River park (which will use water that works its way downstream from Anglin Lake via the Spruce River) was ready to operate and deliver water as soon as it had been tested.

Anglin Lake could experience a 1.2 meter drop in water over the next 30 days as water is redirected and dams are opened to get water to Prince Albert.