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Pace president updates Alberta spill

Fred Woods, president of Pace Oil & Gas, has told The Tyee that the cleanup of his company's spill near Rainbow Lake in northwest Alberta is "going better than expected."

In an interview on Friday morning with The Tyee, Woods said the size of the 22,000-barrel spill was estimated by measuring the spatial extent, about 4.3 hectares, and an average thickness of about 30 centimeters. That indicated an estimated volume of 3,500 cubic metres. "We're erring on the high side," he said, and explained that the spill, an emulsion, is about half water.

Woods said the cleanup is going through four steps: "Identification, containment, recovery and remediation." After identifying the extent of the spill, a trench was cut around the perimeter, mats were laid down, and booms put in place to keep the spill from spreading. Woods told The Tyee that the 50-person crew has recovered about 1,300 cubic metres so far.

"The cleanup is going better than expected," Woods said, adding that "We are ahead of the curve on our estimate." But he had no estimate of the total cost of the cleanup.

Asked if his firm had dealt with earlier spills, he said: "No. This is beyond our experience. We are working with SWAT Consulting. They're like the Red Adair of landfill. They took control and they're doing a good job of it." He added that Pace is also working with the Alberta government.

Woods said he wasn't sure if the spill might have occurred well before it was seen from an overflying aircraft. But he said the company that alerted Pace flies regularly over the site, so it was unlikely that the spill had gone unnoticed for very long.

"We are employing the local community in the cleanup," Woods told The Tyee. "We are committed to making it right."

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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