Clean-up could cost millions, take years: fisheries officer

  • Jun. 17, 2005 7:00 p.m.

Cleaning up Marie Lake following Wednesday’s oil spill may take years and cost millions of dollars, according to Ray Sjolund, field supervisor for conservation and protection at the DFO office in Queen Charlotte.
Most of the oil escaped from the North Arm Transportation tank truck and entered the lake, although it has been contained against one shore by several booms.
“But we are talking about 18,000 litres, Mr. Sjolund said, and “there is a toxic component of the oil that will dissolve. We are not certain how serious that impact is, but it is extremely toxic.”
Marie Lake is the site of a salmon hatchery operated by the Old Massett Village Council and the DFO, and is part of the Yakoun River system, the most productive salmon habitat on the islands.
“(This) is a huge amount of oil for a small body of water like that,” he said.
“It is going to be a very costly recovery process and it will take a long time, several years,” Mr. Sjolund said. Will Marie Lake then be back to the way it was before the accident, we asked. “I hope so but we can never tell for sure,” he said.
Mr. Sjolund also noted that an oil spill on the highway outside Port Clements in the fall of 2000 didn’t involve nearly as much oil, and cost $1-million to clean up.
The accident happened at 11:00 am Wednesday when the tanker, heading from Masset to Rennell Sound went off the road, plunged down a 30-metre embankment and spilled the fuel just 80-metres from the lake. The driver, Mike Stelmaschuk of Masset was slightly injured, and was treated at Masset hospital, then released. He’s resting at home for a week or more.
Also threatened is the Yakoun Hatchery on the lake, which raises more than 250,000 salmon a year and operates on a budget of just over $160,000 a year. Christina Engel of DFO, who works with the hatchery says she is waiting to see what kind of decontamination efforts are made, and what’s left over, “because this stuff just doesn’t disappear.”
“It is a rearing facilityÂ…and I would have to know that there was no possibility of future issues with fish kill in case they didn’t clean it all up,” she said. “If we do end up having to move, then that’s what we have to do. For us the fish come first. You cannot take little creatures and put them in a toxic environment,” she said.
Environment Canada is investigating. Charges under the fisheries act are possible. Maximum penalties could be as much as a $1-million fine.

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