When an oil spill gets into local creeks is nearly impossible to clean up.
DAVE DORMER | QMI AGENCY
CALGARY - As a massive cleanup effort to contain an oil spill continues northwest of Calgary, land owners in the area are demanding the industry take more responsibility for keeping the environment clean.
"If the companies don't start doing something, our food will be gone," said Wayne Johnston, who has raised beef cattle near Sundre, about 100 km northwest of Calgary, since the 1950s.
"If I try to raise food on contaminated soil, everybody eats it."
Upwards of 3,000 barrels of oil -- about 470,000 litres -- leaked Thursday from Plains Midstream Canada's Rangeland Pipeline into Jackson Creek, a tributary of the Red Deer River near Sundre.
Johnston said he had 165 head of cattle on his land, but another spill in the mid-90s and increased oil production forced him to find new grazing grounds for his cows.
"I can't raise beef here anymore because there's too much oil activity," he said.
"The Shell pipeline leak is when we lost a pile of cattle in 1994.
"I tried to keep on going but the oil industry got worse and worse and worse, more pollution, more line breaks, more this, more that, it got so I shipped my cattle down to my daughter's place (five kilometres) further south and west and they're doing OK down there."
Fellow landowner Dennis Overguard suffered a heart attack about a month before the spill and was re-hospitalized over the weekend from the powerful fumes.
The 60-year-old farmer -- who has raised cattle there since he was 16 -- said he is dismayed, not only because he can't go home for at least a month, but also by what he sees as a lack of compassion from the company.
"It almost makes you cry if you think about it," he said.
"What do you do, especially when you don't feel good and you come out of the hospital?"
Overguard and his daughter Heidi were in Sundre on Saturday afternoon, but couldn't go home due to diminished air quality from the spill.
"I'm in a restaurant so pooped I can hardly go, waiting for a call back from Plains on a place for us to stay," he said.
"We've been waiting for a call back since early this morning and they still haven't phoned us.
"I'm ready to lay down on a bench."
Overguard said he would like compensation from the company for affected land owners.
"There's a lot of people who live along there, a lot of campgrounds and a lot of agriculture," he said.
Contacted Saturday, a spokeswoman for Plains Midstream Canada said no one from the company would be made available for comment and referred media to a website, www.plainsresponds.com, saying an update would be provided in the afternoon.
An online update was posted at 7:56 a.m. on Saturday, reading "Plains Midstream Canada continues to respond to an incident involving the Rangeland South Pipeline," however no further update was posted by 6 p.m.
A press release was later distributed, in which the company's vice president of crude oil operations said they "deeply regret" the impact the spill has had on residents.
"We want to assure you that we are deploying our resources to contain the release, protect the environment and respond to your concerns," Stephen Bart said.
"These efforts will continue until the release cleanup is complete and the land and water are restored."
Booms were deployed on Friday to stem the flow of oil on Glennifer Reservoir. On Saturday, crews deployed one more.
Energy Resources Conservation Board spokesman Bob Curran said they are monitoring the cleanup effort, which is up to Plains Midstream Canada to carry out.
"At this point, their efforts seem appropriate," Curran said.