MRO Magazine

Deliberate spill: study launched to test crude and bitumen impact on lake life


Kenora, Ont. – Researchers were in northwestern Ontario over the weekend spilling diluted oilsands bitumen and crude oil into a lake to study how the ecosystem, from microbes to fish, responds.

The pilot project, known as Freshwater Oil Spill Remediation Study, is being done at the International Institute for Sustainable Development Experimental Lakes Area southeast of Kenora, Ont.

Vince Palace, the scientist who is leading the experiment, said the area is typically known for experiments involving a whole lake, but this work is different.

“We’re using small enclosures to contain that oil,” he said.

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The oil was spilled inside four yellow floating boomed rectangles, each along 2.5 metres of shrub and sphagnum moss shoreline.

The enclosures stretch 10 metres into the lake and contain 20,000 litres of water. Curtain-like sides extend down and are carefully affixed to the lake bottom with lines of sandbags filled at the local gravel pit and placed by a small army of students in waders and wetsuits.

The spills were 1.25 litres each and were to be left for 72 hours then cleaned up by professional oil-spill responders.