Accident dumps diesel fuel into Marie Lake

  • Jun. 16, 2005 5:00 p.m.

A tank truck operated by North Arm Transportation of Masset has run off the road beside Marie Lake, spilling its load of diesel fuel into the brush and the lake, which is prime fish habitat.
It happened about 11:00 am Wednesday on the main logging road, about half way between Queen Charlotte and Port Clements. Helmer Smith who works at the nearby fish hatchery was first on the scene. “I heard him (the driver) calling for help. Yelling for help,” he said. Mr. Smith had just come out to feed the fish-250,000 of them-when he heard the calls, but instead went to the accident site, a couple of kilometres away by road. “He (the driver) was wandering around beside the truck, trying to find his dog,” said Mr. Smith. The driver, 23 year old Mike Stelmaschuk of Masset was taken to hospital in Masset, suffering an injured shoulder. He was treated and released by mid-afternoon.
The truck was loaded with approximately 18,000 litres of diesel fuel, according to Timber Hickling at North Arm Transportation, and was heading to a logging operation at Rennell Sound. The driver lost control in loose gravel beside the road, went over the embankment to the right, plunged and rolled 30 metres, coming to rest upside down, a couple of hundred metres from the lake, with at least one gaping hole in the tank.
By 4 pm, clean-up crews were gathering, punching through a rough road down the embankment to the site, preparing to haul the truck up, while others were getting ready to deal with the oil, both in the lake and on the land.
The first containment booms were placed by Dave Unsworth of Port Clements about 4:30 pm, and a larger containment boom arrived on the scene from Queen Charlotte around 5 pm. Workers expected to be on the scene for much of the night.
The lake is part of the Yakoun River system, the most productive salmon watershed on the islands. “It couldn’t be in a worse area than this,” said Robert Russ of Haida Fisheries.
The nearby Yakoun Lake hatchery quickly began releasing its 250,000 fry into the Yakoun River shortly after the accident. (see separate story).
Ray Sjolund of federal fisheries in Queen Charlotte said that diesel fuel, like other fuels, has some molecules that can dissolve in water, and that damage to fish habitat can be done even if no visible oil is present.