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Another pipeline rupture in spill-prone Alberta

Apache Canada has reported a significant pipeline rupture and spill about 20 kilometres northeast of Zama City, Alberta, in the northwest corner of the province.

A pipeline carrying contaminated waste water to an oil injection disposal well site ruptured on June 1, and spilled an undisclosed amount of waste water into the muskeg.

"We are still investigating the volume spilled right now," said Apache spokesman, Paul Wyte. "The line was shut in and the spill has been contained and we have already begun remediation."

According to a recent Global News investigation, Alberta's 400,000-km long pipeline network has experienced 31,453 hydrocarbon or liquid spills in the last 37 years. That works out to two crude oil spills a day.

Last year, a Penn West pipeline leaked 2,000 barrels of produced water into a canola field east of Red Deer. Produced water can be highly saline or full of heavy metals and hydrocarbon residue.

A rash of pipeline accidents has dominated Alberta news lately. In 2011, the Rainbow Pipeline ruptured outside of the Lubicon Cree community of Little Buffalo, contaminating a muskeg with 28,000 barrels of oil.  

The Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) later reported that the line's operator, U.S.-based Plains Midstream, "appeared to have a total lack of appreciation of the effects a spill of this magnitude has beyond its own on-site operational response" and that the company failed to comply with safety regulations.

Last March, the ERCB issued a "high risk enforcement action" against U.S.-based Apache for injecting oil field waste without proper approval.

No record of the Apache rupture and spill has yet appeared on the regulator's website.

Award-winning journalist Andrew Nikiforuk has been writing about the energy industry for two decades and is a contributing editor to The Tyee.

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