Skip to main content

The Suncor operation near where officials were seen taking samples from the Athabasca River following a pipeline leak on Monday.

Brett Gundlock/ Boreal Collectiv/The Globe and Mail

A leak at a Suncor Energy Inc. oil sands site poured an estimated 350,000 litres of industrial waste water into the Athabasca River over a 10-hour period, causing "a short term, negligible impact on the river" earlier this week, the company said late Wednesday.

Canada's largest oil company provided few details about what chemicals and substances actually flowed into the river north of Fort McMurray, saying in a statement that "our tests confirm the process affected water was a combination of water with suspended solids (clays and fine particulates) and inorganic and organic compounds. It does not contain bitumen."

Suncor spokeswoman Sneh Seetal said she was unable provide further details about the makeup of the industrial waste water.

Story continues below advertisement

"It did not contain bitumen but I don't have a further breakdown," Ms. Seetal said.

Earlier this week, Suncor and Alberta's Department of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development disclosed that the company had discovered a rupture on Monday from a pipe carrying industrial waste water used in oil sands extraction and upgrading. The leak at the company's base plant spilled into a pond adjacent to the Athabasca River, and then into the river itself.

Wednesday's statement from company answers one question: how much industrial waste water got into the river. The estimated 350,000 litres that made its way into the Athabasca compares to 2.5-million litres for an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

But Suncor's statement also means the leak went on longer than initial reports suggested. The leak was reported to government officials around 1:45 p.m. on Monday and it was halted at 4 p.m. the same day.

The oil company said that as soon as its staff realized there was a discharge into the river, work began immediately to stop the flow. The company said what it discharged into the river was approximately six parts treated water to one part waste water.

Suncor also said it has hired "a third party" to determine the impact of the industrial waste water entering the river, and Ms. Seetal said water samples continue to be collected.

"Based on the modeling, the current flow of the river, some preliminary volume calculations, we believe there may have had a short term, negligible impact on the river."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Unchecking box will stop auto data updates
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies