Spill update: claims now being accepted

The Husky oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River has continued to be a big headache for a lot of people in North Battleford, including many business owners.

Water restrictions went into immediate effect after the spill happened on July 21. Bans went into effect for water use at laundromats and car washes. While the laundry restriction has since been lifted as of July 29, the ban on car washes remains in place “until further notice,” according to the Aug. 4 update from the City.

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Meanwhile, claims for those suffering losses due to the oil spill are now being accepted.

Husky Energy was scheduled to host claims clinics at the Don Ross Centre on Friday and Saturday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. for those impacted by the pipeline incident. 

Claimants were encouraged to bring documents including receipts, invoices and bank account details. Appointments were also being scheduled as well.      

In addition, Husky has been in contact with businesses in the city who have been impacted by the spill.

Among those impacted is Discovery Co-op. They have two car washes in the city – one at Territorial Place Mall, which has two bays, and the other at the Walmart location. 

Both are closed for the time being. Co-op general manager Mike Nord expects they will continue to be closed for a while yet.

“Our understanding is that the car washes probably won’t be able to get opened up again until the wells are drilled for that,” said Nord. 

Nord was referring to the construction of four new groundwater wells at Water Treatment Plant No. 1. In their news release Tuesday, the city stated the new wells were now being drilled and that should eventually bring some relief to the water restrictions. 

Those wells are expected to be up and running by the end of the month. A water line from Battleford water treatment plant is now up and running as well.   

Closing the car washes has meant a sizeable financial hit for the Co-op, but Nord couldn’t put a dollar amount to it just yet. 

“For sure, they’re important to our business,” said Nord. “It’s obviously not the city of North Battleford’s fault by any stretch of the imagination, and we’re doing what we can to conserve water. We totally understand that. But at the same time it’s definitely hard on business.” 

He confirms they have been in contact with Husky with respect to their own situation. 

“Husky is working with all the businesses affected to recoup our lost revenues,” Nord said.

One of the prime claimants at the end of the day is the City of North Battleford, which faces millions of dollars in expenses to address the loss of the water supply in the North Saskatchewan River. The city has estimated costs at between $7 and $9 million. 

The costs include the four wells, the water line from Battleford to North Battleford, pre-filtering of the river, the need to hire additional personnel and other expenses. 

Mayor Ian Hamilton confirmed at a news conference held Aug. 2 that the city would face a loss in water revenue due to the spill. 

“Absolutely,” Hamilton said. “And it’s a cost of this event that will be also presented to Husky for reimbursement – and not much different from a car wash, they are at a loss from their revenues.” 

Hamilton also acknowledged the impact of other losses such as tourism dollars. While those would be more difficult to quantify, the mayor pledged to “be cognizant of those things,” he said. 

“If they’re determinable, they may be recoverable,” said Hamilton. “They’re all part and parcel of the inconvenience and the interruption of business activities that are summer life in and around the Battlefords.” 

At the Aug. 2 news conference Hamilton said there would be close monitoring to determine what kinds of conservation restrictions can possibly be relaxed. He indicated lifting the ban on watering gardens would be the first priority as residents depend on water for that use. That ban on watering vegetable gardens has now been lifted as of Aug. 9. However the general ban on outside watering remains in effect. 

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