One-stop, 24-hour Energy and Environmental Response Line established for Alberta

Quick – what’s the number for 911? It’s an old joke, but there’s an important truth behind it – everyone knows emergency phone numbers, because when you need them, you really need them. That’s why Alberta now has a single 24-hour, toll-free response line for all energy and environmental emergencies and complaints.

Photo of an emergency response mobile operations centre

When emergencies happen, the Alberta Environment Support & Emergency Response Team (ASERT) is ready to spring into action

Rather than operating its own response line, The new Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has adopted Environment and Sustainable Resource Development’s existing 24-hour environmental hotline. Albertans reporting oil and gas spills, facility fires, and all other situations with an urgent impact on the environment can call 1-800-222-6514.

By combining two hotlines into one, we’re making it easier for Albertans to report information on urgent situations as quickly as possible – because the faster we know what’s happening, the faster we can respond.

This number is for emergencies only – if you have questions about the Regulator or its work, you should call the AER Customer Contact Centre at 1-855-297-8311.

 

Photo of personnel standing around an air monitoring unit

ASERT is there when environmental emergencies strike

You can’t predict an emergency, but the Government of Alberta is prepared for them.

ESRD oversees all aspects of an environmental incident – from initial emergency response, cleanup and containment, to long-term monitoring and remediation activities.

Whenever there is a release of a substance that may cause an adverse effect on the environment, Alberta’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act requires it to be reported. This can be done through the 24-hour Environmental Hotline (1-800-222-6514), which fields nearly 12,000 calls from the public and industry every year.

All calls are followed up, and when there’s an environmental emergency, ASERT is on the job.

The Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Support and Emergency Response Team – ASERT for short – is a group of highly trained individuals that lead ESRD’s environmental response during an emergency event. They train all year and are ready to be deployed to the scene 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With the help of the mobile command centre, they can be operational onsite anywhere in the province.

  • They assess the environmental risk;
  • Coordinate the containment and clean up efforts;
  • Ensure air and water quality monitoring is done when required; and
  • Collaborate with municipalities, health authorities and other emergency responders.

Public safety is always the first priority.

 

Once the emergency phase is over, ASERT transitions the incident to regional compliance staff who ensure the responsible party completes all appropriate actions outlined in the approved environmental mitigation and remediation plans.

Affected sites must meet all environmental standards before they’re declared remediated. Failure to comply could result in the government issuing an Environmental Protection Order or other compliance assurance actions.

If you spot an environmental emergency, please report it to the 24 hour hotline at 1-800-222-6514.

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Test results from March 25 Suncor release

Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) has received the water chemistry analysis from the Suncor spill on March 25, 2013.

We have reviewed the results of the undiluted process-water samples and compared them to the Alberta Surface Water Guidelines. The results are summarized below.

The process-affected water that was released did not meet all parameters of these guidelines, and did not pass the standard 96-hour rainbow trout acute toxicity test; however, there is no concern to human health.

Analysis indicates that the most likely cause for the acute toxicity observed in the rainbow trout toxicity test is the naphthenic acid concentration (24 mg/L).

Naphthenic acids are a group of compounds with variable toxicity that occur naturally in bitumen, and are present at low levels in creeks that cut through bitumen deposits. In bitumen-process-affected waters, these water-soluble compounds are often concentrated.

We are currently reviewing the effects of dilution of the process-affected water by both treated water in the combined outfall pipe and the river water. This will help determine what potential environmental impacts may have occurred.

Full laboratory results will not be released at this time, as they are considered evidence in the ongoing investigation into the incident. The investigation process is ongoing and will determine what type of enforcement action may be necessary.

Hydrocarbons:

  • Trace levels of hydrocarbon fractions were found to be near detection levels for F1 and F2, which are the predominant fractions for gasoline and diesel, respectively;
  • Traces of xylenes were found to be well below the aquatic life guideline;
  • No benzene, toluene or ethylbenzene was detected.
  • Trace levels of three PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) were detected, but not at concentrations that would be expected to cause harm to the river.
    • Two of the three (naphthalene and chrysene) were well below guidelines.
    • The third (pyrene) was present at twice the chronic guideline for aquatic life, but not at levels that would pose a risk to aquatic life.

Organics:

  • Chloride concentration was 630 mg/L – which is above chronic guideline of 130 mg/L, but below short-term guideline of 640 mg/L.
  • Other salt ions, primarily sodium and bicarbonate, were also present at elevated concentrations, and contributed to a Total Dissolved Solids concentration of 2100 mg/L. While not acutely toxic at these concentrations, unauthorized releases of salts into the river are not desirable.
  • Nitrate/nitrite concentrations were below guidelines.
  • Phosphorus was within the normal range for the river.
  • Ammonia concentration was 3.2 mg/L and is above the chronic aquatic life guideline for the river pH and temperature, but is not expected to cause chronic toxicity over the short term of this release.

Metals:

Trace elements were below guidelines except for:

  • Arsenic: 0.011 mg/L (chronic aquatic life guideline is 0.005 mg/L);
  • Boron: 3.2 mg/L (chronic aquatic life guideline is 1.5 mg/L);
  • Selenium: 0.0050 mg/L (chronic aquatic life guideline is 0.001 mg/L);
  • Cadmium: 0.18 micrograms/L, (chronic guideline for aquatic life in 150 mg/L hardness water is 0.047 mg/L); and
  • Zinc: 0.061 mg/L (chronic aquatic life guideline of 0.03 mg/L).

Trace element exceedances are not expected to cause harm to aquatic life over the short duration of the release.

For more information on our Compliance Assurance Program, please visit our website.