The Athabasca River. Image courtesy of Šarūnas Burdulis/Wikimedia Commons.

A TransCanada subsidiary was forced to halt construction work on a natural gas pipeline last week after regulators discovered several unintentional releases of drilling fluid.

Canada’s National Energy Board said Friday that a record review of NOVA Gas Transmission’s McDermott Extension natural gas pipeline project revealed four separate unintentional releases of drilling fluids into the Athabasca River.

One slope failure was also recorded, the NEB said.

According to Reuters, the spills occurred between October 23 and November 7 at the project site, located about 46 miles north of Fort McMurray.

TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper told the news wire that small amounts of fluid were released by a sub-contractor during drilling work to install the pipeline under the river.

Cooper added that the released fluid was comprised of bentonite clay and water and does not pose a risk to wildlife or humans.

No health or wildlife impacts have been reported.

The NEB is currently waiting on test results to determine if the spilled fluids are toxic and is working to determine the size of the releases.

“We are working with the regulators and government agencies, and will not resume drilling before they approve our ongoing plans,” Cooper told Reuters.

The order came just days after TransCanada withdrew its Nebraska route application for the Keystone XL pipeline and announced a new round of layoffs.

TransCanada said that it is still committed to the $8 billion project and it has not ruled out reapplying to the commission for a route.


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