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25th August 2016
...continued from Part one

Without commenting on whether or not the effect is intentional, he added that in providing "very limited information" on its spill response efforts to the public, Husky has ensured that chemists like him cannot give media any clear statements about how catastrophic the accident truly is, and how well the cleanup efforts are going.

He is not the first academic to comment on the lack of details in the energy company's reports; Vince Palace, an aquatic toxicologist for the Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development told CBC after the first water test results were released that more details needed to be tracked and shared to properly determine how the North Saskatchewan River, and drinking water, will be affected in the months to come.

Greg Dionne, mayor of the severely impacted City of Prince Albert, said he is also concerned by Husky's silence on the science.

“The public needs to know,” he said in a phone interview. “[Husky] wants the public support on pipelines and to make people more comfortable. They should be answering all the questions.”

Prince Albert was forced to build a new pipeline to provide an alternative source of drinking water to residents after the spill, and only recently started to resume regular water service to homes and community facilities. While the mayor remains focused on the drinking water issue for now, in the future, he said he will turn his attention to other information gaps left open by Husky - namely, the cause of the pipeline leak.

Big hole in Husky's spill timeline

According to an incident report filed on the spill, Husky Energy detected an irregularity in the faulty pipeline around 8 p.m. on Wed. July 20, and notified the Saskatchewan government at 10:30 a.m. the following morning. A July 26 update on the company’s website however, claims that Husky officials organized aerial surveillance to fly the length of the pipeline “at the first available daytime opportunity,” on Thurs. July 21, and that the pipeline was shut down promptly at 6 a.m. that day.

But as Calzavara from Council of Canadians pointed out, at the time of the spill, the first available daytime opportunity was presumably sunrise, between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. Assuming the company started its surveillance early, as it claimed, why did it take four hours to detect the spill and notify the government?

Husky would not confirm in an email to National Observer​ that the aerial surveillance even took place, nor would it confirm precisely what time the spill was detected, or what the length of the pipeline was, in order to extrapolate how long it would take to fly over the entire line.

"[The flight] seems to have disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle," said Calzavara. “It’s something nobody has really talked about - the PR game Husky is playing on the spill. By keeping information out of the public sphere, it really indicates that they're hiding something.”

Husky has already come under fire for not notifying the provincial government immediately after detecting an anomaly in its pipeline, and refusing to confirm whether the pipeline that leaked - built in 1997 - was reviewed or assessed when a new section of pipeline was added to its gathering system in 2014.

Calzavara also raised concerns about Husky's insistence that it be the first point of contact for members of the public who encounter wildlife impacted by the spill. The company's emergency hotline, he argued, gives the corporation responsible for the accident the opportunity to perform major damage control:

"Anybody who finds a dead or injured animal or fish - the only thing they’re supposed to do is report it to Husky and turn it over to them," he explained. "Why is the provincial government is not stepping in there? To be handing it off to the company that caused the spill does not give any confidence that their numbers on wildlife are going to be accurate."

National Observer sent a list of questions to the provincial government in Saskatchewan asking about its level of satisfaction with Husky's spill response efforts and scientific methodology, but an email statement from its Ministry of Environment failed to provide detailed responses.

Saskatchewan government scarce on details

"Husky is continuing to update the public in regards to its recovery work and environmental impacts, and has released information, including some water testing information, on its website," said the statement. "The Ministry is participating in a discussion on the future release of more data in a manner informative to the public, including the potential for graphic information such as maps."

Despite its own experts having access to the company's data from the spill, along with Husky, it declined to share this data with National Observer, and could not provide an estimate on when that science might be available to the public for analysis. The ministry said the energy company has its own "protocol to release information on spill responses, including water quality information, publicly on a regular basis," and advised that further media inquiries should be directed to Husky.

The response was deeply unsatisfying to Calzavara, who accused the province of "kowtowing" to a corporate energy giant response for a catastrophic oil spill

“It’s so outrageous that the Government of Saskatchewan is capitulating to Husky’s protocols about information on a public spill," he said. "The Government of Saskatchewan - right from the start - they’ve been so complicit I would say, in restricting information, the public is really in the dark around this.”

The federal environment department, Environment and Climate Change Canada, has also been in the loop with regards to data from the Husky oil spill, but said in an email it could not comment on the matter, as the accident remains part of a federal investigation.

Cleanup efforts in the North Saskatchewan River shoreline are ongoing, and Husky has reported that roughly 47 per cent of the shoreline has been cleaned so far. Saskatchewan's Water Security Agency has recently reported that while the major water way is now safe to drink from, it remains a hazardous environment for wildlife.

-with files from Mike De Souza