About half of the oil that leaked from a Husky Energy Inc pipeline into a western Canadian river more than a week ago has been recovered, but there is no immediate deadline for when the cleanup will conclude, officials said on Monday.
More than 1,570 barrels of heavy oil and diluent leaked from Husky's Saskatchewan Gathering System pipeline on July 21, flowing into the North Saskatchewan River.
The spill is still threatening the drinking water of riverside communities, officials from the province of Saskatchewan said in a telephone conference call with reporters.
Municipalities including the cities of Prince Albert and North Battleford have stopped drawing drinking water from the river, and using other sources temporarily.
Duane McKay, an official in charge of emergency management, said the province has formed a committee to plan for water security if the situation persists into the winter.
But he added the committee was formed just a few days after the incident occurred and is purely a precaution, not an indication of how long the cleanup will take.
Some of the temporary water measures, such as retention ponds and using long hoses to access other rivers, would be ineffective in winter, when temperatures will fall well below freezing.
Sam Ferris, a provincial water agency official said the committee has been looking into using new wells and treating and filtering the polluted river water.
"But those are still at the early stages of development," he said. "Prince Albert ... we'll talk with them tomorrow, actually."
Wes Kotyk, a spokesman for Saskatchewan's environment ministry, said the province and Husky have set up 11 containment booms and were cleaning up the river and shoreline.
He also said government had discovered 49 dead animals, though he did not immediately have a breakdown by species.
The exact cause of the spill was still unknown.
Husky officials could not be reached immediately for comment.
(Reporting by Ethan Lou in Toronto; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)