How to clean a lake with an unstoppable oil spill: Drain the lake
We told you in July that tar-sands oil had been leaking into the Canadian wilderness from a drilling site for well over a month — and that nobody knew how to stanch the flow.
It would be nice to update you on how that leak was finally fixed. No such luck: The oil is still leaking.
More than 12,000 barrels of leaked bitumen has been mopped up, but at least 100 animals have died at the Canadian Natural Resources’ Primrose oil extraction site. So much bitumen has flowed into a 131-acre lake that Alberta’s environment department has ordered the company to drain it and dredge it before the waterbody freezes over. From Reuters:
The leak, one of four on the sprawling project site, sprung up from an oil sands reserve produced by a process that melts bitumen with high-pressure steam so that it can be moved and processed. The leak has yet to be stopped, and has become the latest focus for environmentalists concerned about the impact oil sands production.
“The Alberta government should, at a minimum, put a hold on approving new underground tar sands operations until we understand how these leaks are happening and if other sites could run into similar problems,” Mike Hudema, a climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Canada, said in a statement.
The order says the company must pump the water from the area of the lake that is in the vicinity of leak into the third of the lake where it can be contained by a road that cuts across the water body. Then the cleanup of the spill site can be completed.
The drill-happy province says the massive spill has not affected water quality in the lake. That’s wonderful news, because it means that this is a lake visited by dragon-slaying unicorns that lap up tar and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carrying them to another planet where they won’t do any harm. Also, magic is real.