North Battleford has received a pre-payment from Husky of $3.5 million dollars in compensation following the oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River.
That was confirmed by David Gillan, city director of finance, at council's regular council meeting Monday night. The amount has been received and deposited in the bank.
Gillan said this was not a final number for compensation.
“This is just an estimate. It’s not a final payment, it’s a pre-payment just to assist the City with cash flow,” said Gillan.
The news comes on the heels of news that Prince Albert received a similar pre-payment of $5 million.
Gillan stressed the prepayment to North Battleford was not connected to Prince Albert in any way and that people should not read anything into the numbers, because the situations are different.
Gillan’s remarks were in response to a question from councillor Ryan Bater at the meeting Monday. Bater also wanted to know if Husky had any conversations with businesses impacted, particularly car washes and landromats.
Gillan confirmed the city provided the names of all affected businesses to Husky, and that Husky had been in contact with them directly about compensation.
Those talks with businesses in the city had started well before a claims workshop that took place over the weekend at Don Ross Centre, in which residents were encouraged to meet with Husky and submit claims.
“It’s been going on for some time,” Gillan said. “It was something that we talked about at the beginning that we wanted to have compensation for them relatively quickly, because they’re the most impacted – it’s cash flow, they’ve got bills to pay.”
In speaking to reporters following the meeting, city manager Jim Puffalt welcomed the pre-payment.
“We have a number of expenses that are going to be coming right away,” Puffalt said, “and so it’s great that we have the money in place and as soon as the bills come we can pay it and be done with it.”
Puffalt also provided an update on the overall efforts to replace the water supply lost after the oil spill.
The supply line from the town of Battleford has been up and running since last week and that water is being pumped into FE Holliday Plant No. 2. Work is now under way to build wells at the groundwater plant, Water Treatment Plant No. 1.
Puffalt said that the first two additional wells have been drilled as of Monday. The wells are 102 feet deep and 10 inches in circumference.
The pumps are not in yet, but once those are in and the wells commissioned, those two wells will begin production.
At that time, according to a memo to council, all watering restrictions and restrictions on car washes will be lifted. The Saskatchewan Hospital reservoir will also be able to be filled from the city. The other two wells will follow, and the expectation is all four wells will be in production by Aug. 31.
To continue to save water, the City will not be watering sports fields and parks.
The City also has not been using the street sweeper due to the water restrictions, and has been using water from the Town of Battleford to carry out their own watering of plants and flowers.
Puffalt also noted a deal is done for the accounting firm Deloitte to come in and assist in determining the costs that will be charged to Husky for the whole range of losses incurred by the City. Husky will be paying the fees incurred by Deloitte.
A meeting was also scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 18 between City officials and the Water Security Agency to review plans for the General Electric Filtration solution that would enable the City to again draw on water from the North Saskatchewan River. The plans were prepared by their consulting engineers KGS Group and were to be presented at that meeting.
Despite the news earlier on Monday that the Water Security Agency tests had found the water in the North Saskatchewan was within safe drinking guidelines, Puffalt made clear the city was taking no chances.
The F.E. Holliday plant treats not only water but sediment that comes in as well. It is what’s in the sediment that is the real worry.
“Our concern, and why we’re not willing to open up the intakes at all, is because we have no proof that the sediment is clean,” said Puffalt. “And we’re concerned that something comes in that will blow the plant up.”
Puffalt also said the program to do dredging work in the North Saskatchewan River for their water intake has been discontinued in the wake of the oil spill.
The contract for that work was approved by council right before the oil spill happened, but officials don’t want to disturb the sand and dirt at the bottom of the river as oil may have settled there. Costs for that lost work will be charged back to Husky as well.
“We don’t think it’s wise at this point in time to disturb the river base, on the river bottom, and start disrupting and have more things go down the river,” said Puffalt.
Mayor Ian Hamilton added the Water Security Agency has the same concerns as well.
Puffalt assured council the city will be fine with the supply line from Battleford, the new wells and the filtration system.
“There has to be pretty extensive testing” to prove that they open the plant again, said Puffalt.
The water supply situation continued to be on the minds of people at city council in North Battleford on Monday night, as they were updated on the ongoing efforts under way. Photo by John Cairns