FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Environmental Managers Association of B.C. (EMA of BC) presented the Doig River First Nation (DRFN) with an Indigenous Project Award.
Saturday, June 13th, 2019 at an Awards Gala, the Indigenous Project Award was to recognize an innovative orphan well restoration pilot project. As part of the recognition, DRFN received $2,000 in funding from the EMA of BC that will go toward training a member of the community in environmental practices and fieldwork.
“We would like to thank the EMA of BC for this opportunity to achieve our vision to be a leader in the area of environmental restoration of orphan wells,” said Chief Makadahay.
The pilot project creates meaningful engagement with key players that include DRFN, BC Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC) and industry contractors who work together toward the long-term goal of restoring hundreds of orphan well sites on DRFN traditional territories in northeast B.C.
The budget for each orphan well reclamation project varies greatly depending on its size and scope. Provincial funds have been established to help pay for the growing problem of abandoned well sites in Western Canada. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that energy companies must fulfil their environmental obligations before paying back creditors in the case of insolvency or bankruptcy.
“Doig River has experienced a lot of activity in its territory over the last 40 years and we would like to be part of the solution to reclaim and restore the land,” said DRFN Chief Trevor Makadahay. “This is important to our community, so we can exercise our treaty rights on a landscape that is healthy and back to its natural state.”
Full remediation and reclamation of an orphan well site start with a full assessment of the contamination level of soil and/or groundwater. Depending on the size and scope of the work, contaminated material may be removed and transported to a landfill and/or Treatment, Recovery and Disposal (TRD) facility or treated onsite. Any issues with the wellbore integrity need to be resolved and the wellhead or pumpjack is dismantled and transported to a metals recycling facility.
Once the equipment and contaminated material is safely and responsibly dealt with, the site is ready for the reclamation phase. Activities in this phase include may include replacing topsoil, recontouring the land, reseeding and ongoing maintenance such as regular soil and groundwater sampling.