Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Fed Up with Fumes: Families Ask Court to Stop Heavy Oil Producer

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Fed Up with Fumes: Families Ask Court to Stop Heavy Oil Producer

Article excerpt

Families ask court to stop heavy oil producer


EDMONTON - An Alberta family that says it was forced to leave its home due to intolerable smells from a nearby heavy oil producer has turned to the courts to try to get the sickening odours to stop.

"It's necessary to try and bring the venting of these emissions to an end as quickly as possible," said Alain Labrecque, who is asking a Peace River court for an eight-month injunction to shut down 46 wells owned by Calgary-based Baytex Energy (TSX:BTE).

A Baytex spokesman said Monday that tests last spring showed no exceedances of provincial air-quality guidelines. Andrew Loosley said the company is continuing to co-operate with an inquiry called by Alberta's energy minister.

"We are in compliance with all applicable regulations," Loosley said.

In an affidavit filed with the injunction request, Labrecque writes that he, his wife and two children are accustomed to living alongside the energy industry and for years had no problems with the wells in the Reno field near their farm in northwestern Alberta. He says odours began in 2011 after Baytex bought the wells, which use an unusual method of heating bitumen in above-ground tanks to extract the oil.

"By March 2011, the odours and noxious fumes continued to get worse," Labrecque writes. "Karla and I continued to experience severe headaches and other heath impacts.

"The dizziness and loss of balance continued, but other impacts started, including sinus congestion, muscle spasms, popping ears, memory loss, numbness in the hands and side of the nose, constipation/diarrhea, vomiting, eye twitching, fatigue and other impacts. A number of these symptoms began to show up in our kids as well and we became even more concerned."

Baytex's operations have also been a concern in the nearby community of Three Creeks, where several families citing similar health complaints have also left their farms.

Baytex is the only operator in the Reno field.

Hearings that are part of the inquiry are scheduled to begin Jan. 21. A report is due by the end of March. But no matter what the hearing concludes, its recommendations are likely to take months to implement. …

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