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Water Quality Sampling on North Saskatchewan River - Update Sept. 22, 2016

Sept. 22, 2016 - The Water Security Agency (WSA) now has results for 229 surface water quality samples, plus four foam samples.  This includes new results for 55 water sample and two foam sample in comparison with what was reported on Sept. 9, 2016.

All samples were tested for a comprehensive suite of parameters (substances) including Petroleum Hydrocarbon F1 to F4 fractions, the BTEX compounds (Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene and Xylene) and a set of 20 different compounds known as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH).

There was one newly reported exceedance in raw water during this reporting period for any treated drinking water quality standards, guidelines or screening values.  Both exceedances reported to date have been for Benzo(a)Pyrene, one from near North Battleford and one from near Prince Albert. Even with one new exceedance of the drinking water guidelines this does not impact the water treatment plants or turning on of the water intakes.

We now have 22 water samples that have shown exceedances for the guidelines for protection of aquatic life, two more than reported on Sept. 9, 2016.  These were comprised of 15 exceedances for Toluene (no new detections for Toluene since the last data release), three for Pyrene, two for Fluoranthene, and two for Benzo(a)pyrene.  There were 56 “detections” in water samples, seven more than in our Sept. 9, 2016 update, which were below any guideline values for various petroleum constituents. 

The results for foam samples are largely unchanged.  Currently, WSA is doing a fingerprinting analysis of the results of detection of petroleum components in the foam sample collected on Aug. 26, 2016 to determine if it is related to the Husky Oil Spill.  We have reported results for one older foam sample collected on July 28 from the south bank of the river at Prince Albert that showed the detection of Pyrene.  We have also reported some preliminary results for the Aug. 26 foam samples which show detections of PAH compounds and heavier F3 and F4 petroleum constituents.

Sediment Monitoring

WSA continues to collect sediment samples (mud, silt and sand) from the river bottom, from eight locations from above the Point of Entry all the way down the river system to #55 Hwy near Nipawin.  Up to Sept. 16, 2016 we have received results for a total of 90 sediment samples, 25 more than our last report on Sept. 9, 2016

WSA has found detectable amounts of F3 and/or F4 hydrocarbons in the seven of nine locations monitored.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon compounds (PAH) were detected in the sediments at eight of nine locations for which results are available, one more location than previously reported for Sept. 9, 2016.  No PAH compounds have been detected near the #55 highway bridge near Nipawin.  Since the F2, F3 and F4 and PAH compounds tend to attach to organic materials found in the sediments and are essentially non-soluble in water, these are expected to be found in the sediments and less so in water.

There were a total of 65 exceedances (28 more than previously reported on Sept. 9, 2016) of the Canadian Council of the Ministers of the Environment (CCME) Interim Sediment Quality Guidelines at seven of the stations, three more than previously reported.  To date there have been no exceedances of the interim sediment quality guidelines for the bottom sediment samples collected at the #55 highway crossing near Nipawin.

The CCME interim sediment quality guidelines are intended to protect organisms that live in or on the bottom sediments and thereby the aquatic food chain, but are not of direct concern for people.

Since petroleum components such as PAH are attracted to and partition to sediments and organic materials found in river bottom and suspended sediments, it is expected that such materials would be more frequently found in sediments.  Of interest various PAH compounds are detected upstream of the spill site.  PAH can arise from industrial operations, municipal wastewater effluents and other sources such as forest fires, auto exhaust, etc.  Previous historical studies have shown the presence of PAH in upstream reaches of the North Saskatchewan River.

WSA continues to sample water and sediment quality in the area.  Monitoring is currently planned for late September to October.