Canadians need answers on Cold Lake oil spill Print
Earth News
Written by Joan Russow
Saturday, 20 July 2013 17:27

By Emma Pullman  Rabble

| July 5, 2013


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Emma Pullman is a Vancouver-based researcher, writer and campaigner. She is a campaigner with for and campaigns consultant for SumOfUs. Emma will spend the next two weeks in Fort Chipewyan, Anzac, Fort McKay and Beaver Lake meeting with First Nations elders and local residents about the impact of the tar sands on their lands and communities. This series will recount her findings and reflections until her trip concludes when she joins Aboriginal communities from across Turtle Island in Fort McMurray for the Healing Walk against the tar sands on July 5-6. Read parts onetwo and three of the series on

"We don't know what the hell is going on under the ground".

That's what Crystal Lameman, a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation told me this morning. On June 27, an oil spill occurred at Canadian Natural Resources Limited's (CNRL) Primrose operations 75km east of Lac la Biche. The spill happened on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR), located in a region The Royal Canadian Airforce calls"the inhospitable wilds of northern Alberta and Saskatchewan." This "inhospitable" region happens to be in her community's traditional hunting territory where her family traditionally hunted and trapped and where her elders are buried. reported a release of bitumen emulsion, a mixture of heavy tar sands crude and water from in-situ (in ground) oil production.

Lameman told me she only heard about the spill from the press release from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER). "It was disheartening to open my Facebook and see a link showing me the spill in our traditional hunting territory -- that I had to get the information from an outside source as opposed to the information coming directly to the community." The press release is sparse on details, but confirmed that that neither the company nor the government are certain of the volume of emulsion spilled, that the affected area is near Pad 22 but off lease, and has impacted a nearby slough. According to the release, the company has begun clean-up operations. But Lameman heard from source on site that the damage of the spill it much worse than the company, government or media are reporting.

"I was being told, there's wildlife still drinking from the water." She was also told that the 'slough' in question was actually a lake, but the lake has receded so much that industry and government are calling the lake a slough to minimize the perception of the spill. "That concerned me," she says, "and it made me want to go out there and survey the damage." And so Lameman decided it was time to find some answers. We set off to the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, about 45 minutes east of her community.