Regina attempts to make its reporting on toxic spills, leaks more transparent

·3 min read
A creek runs alongside University Park Dr., in Regina, Sask., on Oct. 18, 2021.  (Alexander Quon/CBC  - image credit)
A creek runs alongside University Park Dr., in Regina, Sask., on Oct. 18, 2021. (Alexander Quon/CBC - image credit)

Regina's push to be more transparent means data on toxic spills and leaks is now available to the public.

On Wednesday, the city's executive committee unanimously voted to receive its first report on the topic since it directed administration to be more transparent.

The report said that in 2021 there were 10 leaks or spills reported in Regina.

Four of the leaks originated from the Co-op Refinery Complex, according to the report.

All of the leaks tied to the refinery were considered to be level 3 on the severity index, which ranges from one to five, with one being the most severe, potentially posing an immediate hazard to human health.

Unlike every other spill, the city says the four leaks from the Co-op Refinery Complex are still under investigation.

Richard Agecoutay/CBC News
Richard Agecoutay/CBC News

The cost of investigating the leaks is unknown despite the report indicating that associated costs were invoiced to the Co-op Refinery Complex. Whether the costs have been recouped is also unknown.

Only one spill was above a level 3 on the severity index. The spill occurred June 11, when domestic sewage overflowed into the Wascana Creek due to heavy rainfall.

The incident was considered to be level 2 in severity and people downstream were notified.

The move to be more transparent came after a May 2020 leak from the Co-op Refinery Complex when high winds stirred up sediments, causing sludge to discharge into the sewage system. At that time, council voiced concerns about residents and fellow politicians not being informed of toxic spills or leaks.

Mayor Sandra Masters said the city has done more to be transparent but that investigations take time and it will continue to recover costs from those who are at fault for the spills or leaks.

"I think we have every faith that we will execute on that and will receive those moneys in due course," said Masters.

Part of the push for transparency means Regina now discloses leaks on its open data website.

It's also implemented a reporting system to alert people downstream of a spill.

Masters said it wasn't just residents who were frustrated about not being notified.

"I had several municipalities. The mayor of Fort Qu'Appelle and some of the Indigenous First Nations reach out to voice their frustration with the timeliness of notices," said Masters.

On Wednesday, city administration told members of the Regina executive committee that it would not send out notification for every single spill.

Masters said there's a good reason city administration has decided to be so conservative with public alerts.

"I think that the argument is, is they don't want to desensitize the public," she said. "If every time there's a minor spill, they're notifying that when there's no risk to human life and health at all, that we wouldn't want a major spill when we actually need folks to react to to have them not react at that point in time."

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