The clean up of diesel fuel at Marie Lake, halfway between Queen Charlotte and Masset, is continuing.
About 14,800 litres of fuel spilled from a North Arm Transportation fuel truck when it left the logging road, flipped, and rolled down a 30-metre embankment at 11:00 am Wednesday. It came to rest upside down, about 80-metres from the lake, spilling most of its load.
Since then, crews have been scrambling to contain the oil, sop it up, and make sure there’s as little damage as possible to the lake and to the fish hatchery on it.
“They are continuing the clean up, trying to recover the fuel that got into the lake and trying to prevent more getting into the lake from the crash site”, said Mike Drumm, Senior Contaminated Sites Officer, Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection. “They have got at least two or three booms in sequence that contain any fuel on the surface”, he said, adding that a skimmer will then be used to get the fuel out of the lake and into a tank for further disposal. Mr. Drumm said at the moment they are considering taking it to a disposal facility in the lower mainland.
The clean up is expected to take about ten days, according to Mike Stradiotti, a principal of North Arm Transportation in Vancouver. He says after that, they’ll go into the monitoring phase, but for the time being, there’ll be up to 20 crew on the ground working on the clean up, with some staying overnight.
He says the company is insured, but didn’t want to speculate on how much the clean up might cost.
“You know what, I couldn’t even begin to guess,” he said, “putting aside any fines or any of that type of thing.”
A smaller spill on the highway just south of Port Clements five years ago cost about $1-million to clean up, a fisheries officer said last week.
Charges could be laid under the Fisheries Act. Maximum penalty upon conviction is a $1-million fine.
The accident left workers at the nearby fish hatchery scrambling to release 250,000 fish. All were let go in the Yakoun River by noon Thursday, and most were expected to be OK, since the release was only a week or so earlier than planned.
However, the fate of the hatchery may be up in the air. If the lake is polluted with oil, the hatchery may have to be relocated, according to Christina Engel with DFO in Queen Charlotte.
She 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
Driver Mike Stelmaschuk, 23, of Masset was slightly injured in the accident. He was treated and released Wednesday from Masset hospital. His dog was in the cab with him at the time of the accident. The dog, called ‘Puddles’, disappeared for 24-hours, but was finally found safe and sound and reunited with its owner Thursday afternoon.
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