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Apache spill is one of Alberta's largest pipeline ruptures

Nearly a dozen days after the fact, Alberta's tardy energy regulator has reported that a ruptured pipeline owned by Apache has spilled nearly 60,000 barrels of contaminated water near Zama City, Alberta.

A pipeline carrying "produced water" from an oil field to a waste injection site broke on June 1, contaminating 42 hectares of muskeg.

Produced water can be highly saline and contain a variety of petroleum toxins as well as heavy metals.

Neither Apache nor the regulator, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), has released any information on the toxicity of the produced water or why the pipeline failed. 

A ERCB press release noted that the regulator is now "onsite and will continue to work with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, the company and other agencies to ensure that the incident is controlled, contained, and all appropriate clean up and mitigation measures take place."

Greenpeace spokesman Mike Hudema said the latest spill called into question the Alberta government's decision to hide the pipeline safety report they received last year. (That report was completed nearly four months ago).

"The premier has promised a new era of transparency, but (Premier Alison) Redford's pipeline track record shows the government is more concerned about protecting industry PR than they are about protecting the environment and giving full, timely information to the public," Hudema said.

A Global News investigation found that Alberta's pipeline infrastructure has leaked 61,000 times in the last 37 years. Approximately 29,000 spills involved oil, a rate of two crude oil spills a day. The remainder involved everything from salt water to condensate. 

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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