‘Small oil sheen’ reported on Mackenzie River in Inuvik


The NWT Power Corporation says it has taken steps to treat an oil spill spotted on the Mackenzie River in Inuvik.

A “small oil sheen” was reported by the power corporation to the NWT’s spills hotline on Thursday, the corporation stated in a Friday press release.

The oil is believed to be from historic contamination in the area, the corporation stated, and not a recent spill. The location in question is said by NTPC to have been a fuel offloading site for many years and some small spills were not properly cleaned up at the time.

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“It was quite an active area for the offloading of oil, ending in the early ’80s,” said Doug Prendergast, the power corporation’s communications manager.

“We haven’t been able to confirm exactly when the era of activity was, but I think it’s fair to say through the ’70s and ’80s, and that there were a number of different parties involved.”

The extent to which any agency has attempted to remediate the area since that time was not immediately clear.

In its press release, the corporation speculated that high water levels in the Mackenzie River may have disturbed soil or abandoned pipes and released oil into the river.

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The corporation said staff and contractors have installed absorbent hydrocarbon booms and pads around what they believe to be the fuel source in a bid to prevent further spread. However, staff have yet to definitively confirm the source and, in the meantime, are using sandbags to berm the area.

“People with historic knowledge of the area, what sort of activities went on, have a strong sense of what the likely source is,” said Prendergast.

“We know the area very well, but we won’t know the exact source of this spill until we get further information. I do want to stress that this is a very localized area that is being affected. It’s quite a small spill.”

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According to the NWT spill reports database, the spill was estimated at 20 litres when it was first reported by email on Thursday.

NTPC says it will continue cleanup and remediation efforts in the coming days, working with Environment and Climate Change Canada and the GNWT’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

There was no suggestion of any immediate public health risk as a result of the spill.