Sinopec Daylight, Alberta landowner go to court over pipeline leak

By Dave Cooper, Edmonton Journal October 18, 2012

EDMONTON – A leak from a small oil-collector pipeline on Shane Tower’s Breton-area property in June looked like a dark stain on his freshly seeded land.

But the event has escalated, with pipeline owners Sinopec Daylight Energy appearing before a judge on Thursday, seeking access to Tower’s property, 75 kilometres west of Leduc, so they can finish site restoration and restart pumping. The company can’t put the well back into production until the pipeline is covered and the line tested. Tower has refused to let them on his land until they agree to compensation.

Daylight was not granted an injunction Thursday and the case is scheduled to be heard in an Edmonton courtroom on Nov. 27.

“We simply don’t know what else to do. We could resolve this in 15 minutes if Daylight would sit down,” said Tower. “Right now there is a 150-foot trench surrounded by fencing and I have to drive through a field to get to my new house.”

Tower said he won’t budge and let Daylight finish its work — a new segment of pipe is already installed — until it agrees to compensation. “I have sunk $50,000 into this to date for a lawyer to try to negotiate agreements and my lost wages. And if I have to build a new driveway because they won’t let me use the drilling access road which I have always been able to use, that will be another $50,000.”

Randy Ford, vice-president of drilling for Daylight, said his firm had a worksite agreement with Tower to work on their right-of-way, “and he is not allowing us back in.”

Ford could say little about the case.

“Maybe we will be able to resolve this before the case goes to court.”

There also appears to be an issue with a water well on Tower’s property. It was drilled in 2009. After the Daylight rupture, water in the well was tested as part of an environmental study around the spill site. The results showed high levels of benzene and other toxic hydrocarbons in the water. Tower doesn’t know the source, but notes the only oil well on his land is the 1960s-era well that is hooked up to the pipeline that ruptured. There are also wells on neighbouring properties.

“We have been on bottled water ever since we found out, but were advised by the health authorities not to even bathe in this water. We have horses on the property as well,” he said.

Tower works as a well-completion consultant and is away from home working on drilling rigs much of the time. His wife and children tried to avoid the property during the summer.

“They went on a lot of camping trips. It is terrible and we were thinking of selling this property, but who is going to buy land with no drinking water?”

Daylight provided a portable cistern with fresh water, but Tower says the company doesn’t intend to winterize it. Without a thorough — and expensive — environmental assessment, Tower doesn’t know where to drill a new well.

“I don’t know the extent of the contamination. We are in a boggy area and everything flows into this area.”

The Energy Resources Conservation Board is investigating the original pipeline rupture, says a spokesman.

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