The B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy has confirmed there has been a diesel spill in Haida Gwaii waters.
A spokesperson for the ministry told the Observer the spill of approximately 4,500 litres occurred sometime between midnight and 5 a.m. on Wednesday near Dinan Bay, and was reported at 8:11 a.m. on April 22, the same day.
In an emailed statement, the spokesperson said Taan Forest was responsible for the spill.
“An automated fuel transfer system on an accommodation barge malfunctioned and overflowed,” the spokesperson said. “Marine spill response contractors are on-site cleaning up.”
They said ministry staff are monitoring the spill response in coordination with the Haida-owned forestry company and the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) as well as federal authorities from the Canadian Coast Guard, Environment Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
A joint advisory from the CHN, its business arm HaiCo and its company Taan Forest released on the afternoon of April 23 provided more detail on the cause of the spill and clean-up.
“A valve feeding diesel to the electrical generator failed on the Toba Barge owned by Taan Forest,” the advisory said. “Consequently, an estimated 4,500 litres of diesel leaked onto the deck of the barge and into the ocean near the dry land sort.”
The advisory said the spill was near the mouth of the bay and that because diesel is “non-persistent,” it dissipates rapidly.
“The amount on the water was expected to have evaporated by as much as 75 per cent over the last 12 hours,” the advisory said. “It is estimated that half of the spill has dissipated and evaporated.”
Booms and absorbent pads were deployed after the spill was discovered, the advisory continued, and additional booms, absorbent pads and personal protective equipment from the Coast Guard were being sent by floatplane.
Local monitoring of the spill is underway as are daily National Aerial Surveillance Program flights, and biologists are expected to conduct ongoing sampling of water, soil, and marine life to assess impacts as well as target clean-up efforts.
“Current modelling shows that the full plume is expected to last until approximately Sunday,” the advisory said.
“For the protection of public health, environment and any areas of cultural importance, we would greatly appreciate if people can avoid the area while the crews are working.”
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