Evaluating Effects of the Husky Energy Pipeline Spill on Fishes in the North Saskatchewan River
In July 2016, a buried pipeline near Maidstone, Saskatchewan, ruptured and spilled approximately 250,000 litres of diluted bitumen (dilbit),Footnote 1 with much of it ending up in the North Saskatchewan River. Since there is little known about the impacts of dilbit exposure on freshwater organisms, the spill presents a unique opportunity to understand the potential chronic impacts of diluted bitumen on a freshwater ecosystem. This project will examine whether the spill compromised the long-term health of fish in the river by assessing concentrations of oil-related contaminants and indicators of adverse impacts on fish.
Researchers will evaluate the fish community structure and health of individual fish at nine sites—three in the immediate vicinity of the spill, two upstream, and four downstream—representing a range of exposure conditions. To establish energy and contaminant pathways, the food web will be sampled from top to bottom. Health indicators that will be examined include the presence of lesions, tumors, breaks in DNA (genetic material), and presence of proteins involved in detoxification. The goal is to determine: how far impacts of the spill have spread along this important river system; how these contaminants move through the food web at a given location; and whether impacts on fish species are evident up to two years after the spill. The data generated by this research will be incorporated into computer models, by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and others, to predict the extent of contamination and potential impacts in the event of a future pipeline spill into a river system. This capability is extremely valuable in light of ongoing proposals for new pipeline developments to transport dilbit.
2017 - 2020
Dr. Timothy Jardine
Assistant Professor, School of Environment and Sustainability
University of Saskatchewan
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