Oil and gas company Plains Midstream Canada said Friday that up to 3,000 barrels of crude oil spilled from a pipeline into a tributary of the Red Deer River in Alberta.
The company said when the spill was detected Thursday night it closed off its network of pipelines in the area.
Plains Midstream said light sour crude spilled into Jackson Creek near the community of Sundre, about 62 miles (100 kilometers) from Red Deer, Alberta. Cleanup crews are hoping to contain oil at a dam upstream.
"Light sour crude oil has a strong petroleum odor, but this odor does not pose a health or safety risk to the public," the company said in a news release.
Recent heavy rains have swollen streams and rivers in the area, some to near flood stage, and local officials are concerned that will cause the oil to spread more quickly.
"Certainly anything that is coming out of the pipeline or that did come out of the pipeline is certainly moving quickly downstream. It's going to be a major environmental concern for sure," said Bruce Beattie, town council leader in Mountain View County, which is on the river system.
The company said Alberta energy regulators and government health and environment officials are monitoring water and air quality in the area.
Alberta Environment spokeswoman Jessica Potter said communities and individuals downstream of the spill have been told not to use river water until further notice. The community of Sundre is upriver from the spill, but Red Deer is downstream.
Premier Alison Redford said her government is doing what it can to deal with the spill and pledged a full investigation. She said the province has an internationally recognized pipeline system supported by a strong regulatory framework, but if improvements need to be made, then action will be taken. The company did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
The wilderness region around Sundre is a common getaway area for people in Calgary, Alberta, and popular with anglers and hunters.
The spill comes as Plains Midstream continues to clean up an April 29, 2011 pipeline spill that leaked 28,000 barrels of oil in northern Alberta. The oil oozed into soil and collected into pools along the pipeline's path northeast of Peace River. It was the largest pipeline leak in Alberta in 36 years.