Monday, November 2, 2015

Alberta dairy farmers win water battle

An Alberta judge has ordered the owners of a gas plant to provide drinking water for a dairy farm and family whose wells were contaminated.

The lawyer for Ron and Lonni Saken says the plant's current and previous owners still need to compensate the family for land that will be tainted for a generation.

"We can't just leave them here," said Keith Wilson. "If the companies have destroyed this, then the companies need to buck up and relocate this farm."

The Alberta Energy Regulator ruled Thursday that Bonavista Energy must truck enough water to the Saken dairy farm near Edson for the family, their employees and all their cattle.
That must total at least 9.5 million litres a year, said the regulator.

The family's wells have been contaminated by sulfolane, a solvent used in treating sour gas. It has seeped from a plant Bonavista bought from Suncor in 2010.

Bonavista first discovered the problem and informed the family about the problem in March, 2014. The company's investigation concluded the leak began before Bonavista purchased the plant.

The company has since drilled the family a new well, but that water is highly alkaline and has heavy concentrations of flouride. As well, the open tanks required to let dissolved methane vent have allowed bacteria in.

"(The cattle) aren't drinking the water," said Lonni Saken. "They're drinking half as much as they should be."

The farm's milk production is off by 20 per cent, she said. A similar percentage of the cows are aborting.

The farm has been in the family since 1929.