Update on the Marie Lake fuel spill

  • Jun. 27, 2005 9:00 a.m.

submitted by Gino Stradiotti, North Arm Transportation-On June 15 at approximately 10 am a fuel tanker was involved in a single vehicle accident at 24K on the Charlotte Main. The tanker released approximately 15,000 litres of diesel fuel from its ruptured compartments when it came off the road and rolled down the embankment. The fuel was destined for an operation in Rennell Sound. This accident has caused concern to a great many people, but none more than North Arm Transportation of Masset which operates this vehicle.
The location of this accident was in close proximity to Marie Lake, which is home to an important fish rearing facility. The accident was most unfortunate but the real story is how the community, government agencies, and industry have responded to this incident.
First, it is noteworthy that the driver miraculously sustained only minor injuries from the accident and was released from hospital after treatment. The driver was given assistance by the staff at the Marie Lake Hatchery. Shortly after his rescue, a radio call for assistance was made to Edwards and Associates. North Arm Transportation was in turn notified and they initiated their emergency response assistance plan. Staffs from Edwards & Associates, O’Brien & Fuerst, Cascadia, D&E Towing, and North Arm Transportation were dispatched to the scene. For years, industry has trained their personnel to deal with a situation such as this. The quick response from these companies in getting their people and spill equipment to the site prevented this spill from migrating into the entire lake. Containment booms were deployed in the bay where the fuel entered the lake, trapping the floating fuel in a confined area.
Additional resources were dispatched to deal with the recovery of the truck and provide materials to clean up the spill. Local businesses rushed staff and equipment to the site and Burrard Clean Operations supplied specialized equipment and materials for the fuel recovery operation. Quantum Emergency Response Inc was contracted to oversee the response to the incident.
Government officials and Haida Nation Fisheries officers were on scene within hours of the accident assessing the response and monitoring its progress. Staffs from the Ministry of Water, Land, and Air Protection, Ministry of Forests, and Haida Nation were instrumental in assisting the emergency response team in dealing with this incident.
Oil and fuel products are lighter than water and therefore float on the surface. This allows the responder to access the fuel for removal. It is essential to plan a coordinated response to a situation like this with measurable goals and objectives. This plan included:
o Confine the spilled fuel to the smallest possible area. This was accomplished by deploying absorbent and containment booms so no fuel escaped the small bay where it entered the lake. Edwards immediately deployed absorbent boom to contain the fuel and Dave Unsworth fortified that with heavier containment boom when Burrard Clean supplies arrived from Queen Charlotte about 4 pm.
o Remove the tank truck to prevent further loss of fluids into the environment and make the work-site safe for spill responders. This task was completed with assistance from staff and equipment from Edwards & Associates.
o Remove the fuel from the lake. Specialized equipment from Burrard Clean was employed to skim and absorb the fuel on the surface of the lake. Staff from the Council of the Haida Nation and local companies worked to remove the fuel from the lake. The fuel removal has been completed at this time and have been able to transport the fuel to recycling locations with assistance from the Ministry of Water, Land, & Air Protection.
o Remove trapped fuel in the bush and prevent further run-off to the lake. Entrapment berms have been constructed at strategic locations to gather fuel by using water flow to raise the fuel off the surface of the ground. While these collection points stand out due to the colour and consistency of the diesel fuel, they provide a safe and practical means of preventing the fuel from running into the lake. These locations have been chosen for their clay composition and the high moisture content of the soil as this prevents fuel from working its way into the ground. Once the fuel is concentrated it can be vacuumed, skimmed, or removed by the use of absorbent material without harming the hillside.
o Maintain control of the area and continue to monitor fuel coming from the ground. Staff will continue to monitor the area and concentrate and collect any fuel that accumulates. Containment booms will remain in place on the lake until it is evident that there is no more possibility of fuel entering the lake or escaping from the hillside.
o Water Testing. A water-monitoring program is in place to assess the impact of the spill on the water quality in the lake. Initial samples have been taken and have been sent to a lab for analysis. This program will continue until all parties are content that the lake water is safe for the hatchery program to continue.
The emergency phase of this operation is complete, all fuel has been removed from the lake, and there is containment of fuel being released from the soil. Now, the focus of the operation is the continued removal of the pockets of fuel that have collected on the hillside.