BARRHEAD - Large volumes of fuel spilled from a storage tank on a property near Neerlandia into a County of Barrhead drainage ditch sometime prior to April 11 and have entered into Shoal Creek.
The Alberta Emergency Management Agency issued an alert about the spill via its mobile alert app at about noon on April 14. The county, who was the author of the alert, also posted about it on its website.
The alert states that as a result, the water quality downstream of Shoal Creek and the groundwater in the area could be impacted.
They also ask the public to keep their pets and livestock away from drainage ditches in the area as the water could be contaminated.
County manager Debbie Oyarzun said she first learned about the spill on April 11, from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), which sent out a notice that someone, most likely the property owner, had reported seeing a "sheen of fuel in Shoal Creek."
"They investigated and determined that it wasn't from a pipeline," she said, noting that AER had identified that they were also in discussion with Alberta Environment and Park (AEP) officials.
Oyrazun added that the AER also started the preliminary containment and cleanup efforts by putting absorbent booms in Shoal Creek.
The next day AEP continued to look for the source of the leak with the aid of county staff.
"[AEP] had drones fly and photograph the area looking for areas where they could see a sheen of fuel on the vegetation, the creek or other bodies of water," she said. "They have also activated their emergency response team and are working with the landowner for cleanup."
Oyarzun said although the incident is unfortunate, she has had preliminary discussions with the AEP and hopes they will release some of their drone footage and other findings with the county in hopes of using it as an educational tool.
"I would like to use it, as a lesson learned and work with landowners and bring more attention to the issue, so they can include it in their environmental and farm safety plans," she said. "Perhaps consider a secondary containment system, a berm. We don't know the cause of the spill yet, but maybe it was preventable ... and even if it wasn't, there is still something that can be learned from the incident."