Effects of oil leak minimal
Crews respond instantly following mishap

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

FORT SIMPSON (Oct 15/99) - A mock oil-spill exercise held by Enbridge took on an air of reality Thursday when the company's huge amphibious all-terrain vehicle, the Rolligon, began to leak oil.

The Rolligon stands approximately five metres high by five metres wide and weighs in at close to eight tonnes. It was making its first venture across the Mackenzie when a hydraulic line let go and an estimated 20-25 gallons of oil spilled into the river. Fortunately, three safety boats were on hand to begin immediate containment and removal of the oil with absorbent booms and pads.

Enbridge employees, with assistance from representatives from DIAND, the Fort Simpson Fire Department and the Department of Transportation, who were observing the exercise, spent two-and-a-half hours cleaning up.

"They just jumped in there and worked with us. Everybody pulled together as a unit," on-scene commander and Enbridge foreman, Mark Gerlock, said of the situation. "It makes my job so much easier."

Gerlock noted that his crew was prepared with the best available technology, pads and booms that absorb oil but not water. That allowed them to recover practically all of the oil, he said.

Kent Halvorson, resource management officer with DIAND, said a sheen remained visible on the surface due to the lightest portion of the fluids, which rises, but it evaporates in the sunlight within a few hours.

"None of it gets down into the water column at all, it just stays on the surface," he said.

Halvorson added that he and Gerlock flew 140 kilometres down river and there was no sign of any oil residue. The incident was also reported to the oil spill line in Yellowknife, a standard procedure under the circumstances. There won't be any charges resulting from the incident as Enbridge showed "due diligence" by having their clean-up booms and pads ready, according to Halvorson..

"As far as I'm concerned, they did a pretty good job," he said. "They had three boats on the scene there in a very short time ... they got all the heavy oils right away, soaked them up and the little bit of a sheen is all gone now, everything is OK."