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SOURCE: The Energy Mix

DATE: November 23, 2018

SNIP: Newfoundland and Labrador has no hope of cleaning up from its worst-ever oil spill, after stormy waters off the east coast broke up at least two ocean oil sheens to the point that 250,000 litres of toxic material can no longer be recovered.

The spill “happened on Friday morning while Husky Energy’s SeaRose platform was preparing to restart production during a fierce storm that was, at the time, the most intense in the world,” The Canadian Press reports. By Monday and Tuesday, the oil was no longer visible on the ocean surface, and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) had shifted its attention to monitoring wildlife and investigating the incident. Husky said it had found 15 oiled seabirds so far, but biologists were watching out for a much heavier toll.

“Absolutely, any regulatory agency would look at the track record of a company in a case like this, and this will certainly be no exception,” he told CBC. “In this case, the volume of the discharge is significant, and the history of the company, and the fact that it did happen during a severe weather occurrence.”

But the Sierra Club Canada Foundation is already pointing to the spill as evidence that “this country is not prepared to handle a major oil spill and is lax in regulating its offshore industry,” iPolitics reports.

“Husky is reporting they are unable to confirm the extent of the spill, never mind try and clean it up—a virtually impossible task in seven-metre seas,” said National Program Director Gretchen Fitzgerald.

“The fact that they have found oiled birds means that there’s probably a lot more oiled birds out there,” said York University seabird biologist Gail Fraser, who noted that “millions” migrate to the region from the Arctic at this time of year.

“The conditions were terrible, and that makes it a challenge to get good estimates of how many seabirds might be killed.”

Jones noted that the problem is more complicated than simply washing an oiled bird, since even a “single drop” of oil is enough to “lethally damage” a dovekie.

“My guess is it means there’s a horrendous number of dead birds out there,” he told CBC. “They’ll die an agonizing death, even if they get exposed to a tiny amount of oil.”