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Surface Water

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Initial Containment and Recovery

Containment and recovery of oil from the surface of Makami River began on the day of the derailment, March 7, 2015.  The oil that spilled is lighter than water and floated on the water surface. Beginning on the same day as the spill, containment booms were installed at various locations downstream of the derailment site. These booms stretched across the river and captured oil floating on the water, minimizing the spread and impact on the environment. 

Oil captured by the containment booms was collected from the water surface as an oil-water mixture using skimming equipment such as rope skimmers, rotary skimmers, and vacuum trucks.  Once the oily water was collected, it was transferred to on site storage tanks where it was processed to separate the oil from the oily water.  Oily water was then transported off site to a licensed disposal facility. 

A large volume of the oil contained in the rail cars was not released to the environment following the derailment.  Oil that was not released was transferred from the rail cars to on site storage tanks where it was held while an appropriate receiver was identified to accept the product.  This stored crude oil was transported off-site to a licensed disposal facility.  All liquid waste storage tanks have been cleaned and removed from the site.  

Surface Water Sampling

Surface water sampling began on March 8, 2015 and continues to be conducted regularly.  Samples were initially collected every day from the Makami River and Minisinakwa Lake (from approximately 1.0 kilometre upstream of the derailment site to approximately 1.5 kilometres downstream of the railway trestle bridge, located southeast of Gogama). 

As the surface water sampling program continued to show very positive results, the program was scaled back where there was no scientific need for further work.  The current sampling program consists of quarterly sample collection from nine locations in the Makami River.

Current Surface Water Conditions

Beginning on March 7, 2015, containment booms were installed at multiple strategic points on the Makami River and Minisinakwa Lake, downstream of the derailment site.  These booms were continuously monitored and reconfigured as needed throughout the response and remediation process.  Accumulations of sheen or oiled debris were removed from the containment booms on a daily basis.  The booms were removed at the end of October 2015, after a thorough assessment of shoreline and river conditions showed that there was no measurable accumulation of oil on the surface of the water or shorelines.   

Occasionally, very small patches of sheen (rainbow or silver film on the water surface) can be found on the surface of the river near the derailment Site, but sheen presence is continuously decreasing.  Sheen is an extremely thin film of oil which floats on top of the water.  These minor sheen appearances will continue to decrease as they quickly get broken down into harmless components by natural processes such as exposure to sunlight and wave action.  This sheen does not pose a risk to humans, wildlife, or the natural environment.

Laboratory testing of water samples from the river have shown no detectable concentrations of petroleum components for several months, with the exception of minor detections during and immediately following the sediment remediation which showed low-level concentrations, well below regulatory screening values.  The most recent laboratory results from samples collected in December 2015 showed no detectable concentrations of petroleum components.