Oil spill specialist says timeline for cleanup depends on weather

August 2, 2016 - 7:15am Updated: August 2, 2016 - 10:48am
Dr. Ed Owens is a specialist brought in by Husky Energy to help with the oil spill cleanup.
Greg Higgins/battlefordsNow
Dr. Ed Owens is a specialist brought in by Husky Energy to help with the oil spill cleanup.

Northern Saskatchewan will make a full recovery from the oil spill, according to an expert, but the timeline will depend on the weather.

Husky Energy has brought in oil spill specialist Dr. Ed Owens to clean the North Saskatchewan River after a pipeline leaked oil into the North Saskatchewan River. His resume includes work on substantial oil spills such as the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989.

He met with city officials at the North Battleford Airport Sunday, July 31 to explain his cleanup plan.

“Everything will eventually get back to normal," Owens said. "The time question is a very important one. We will be working straight through to winter. The plan is to remove as much of the oil as possible before then.”

Once winter hits, Owens said there isn't much he and his team can do but wait. In the spring they'll come back to see what, if any, oil is left. Owens said the goal is to remove enough oil so it poses no risk to the water over the winter months.

Phase one of the plan is to look for areas where oil can be easily remobilized and then direct operations into those areas. Owens said it’s the best way to gain control over the spill.

Phase two is to remove the oil from the shorelines. According to Owens it won’t happen overnight; it is going to take weeks or months.

“Oil basically breaks down naturally,” he said. “It’s just the question of what is an acceptable timeframe. Anytime you have people nearby that are being affected you really want to speed up the process and that’s what we are here to do.” 

Owens’ is the president of the Owens Coastal Consultants and has developed area-specific response strategies for pipeline projects in Africa, both Americas and other places across the globe.  

Owens participated in the United Arab Emirates Oil Spill Task Force after the HASBAH 6 blowout in the Arabian Gulf in 1982. In 1991 Exxon made him the technical advisor for their Shoreline Cleanup Advisory after the Exxon Valdez spill.