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GNWT declares Slave River safe after Kearl oil sands spills

Imperial Oil's Kearl Lake site. Jason Woodhead/Flickr


The territorial government has declared the Slave River at Fort Smith safe following two spill incidents involving the Kearl oil sands mine in northern Alberta.

The territorial government announced the completion of interim reporting on enhanced water quality monitoring on Tuesday.

That enhanced monitoring began on March 2, after the territory said it was informed of two spills at Kearl. Monitoring was completed in collaboration with the Fort Smith Métis Council, Town of Fort Smith and Smith’s Landing First Nation.

On Tuesday, the GNWT said monitoring results indicate the Slave River – which is downstream of the spill sites – has not been contaminated.



“Monitoring has so far indicated that the Slave River is safe for people and animals, with no evidence of the spill incidents contaminating the Slave River in the Northwest Territories,” the territory stated.

Concerns were raised after the revelation that industrial wastewater had been leaking at the oil sands mine since May 2022, followed by the announcement of a separate spill in February this year.

Kearl Lake is located near the Muskeg and Firebag rivers, which feed into the Athabasca River. In the Peace-Athabasca Delta, the Peace and Athabasca rivers join to form the Slave River, which flows north into the NWT and Great Slave Lake.

The NWT government has previously expressed frustration over a lack of communication about the spills from Imperial Oil, Kearl’s operator, and the Alberta Energy Regulator.

The territory said this week it will continue to monitor the Slave River at Fort Smith for any signs of contamination.