Oil Spill Response Shows British Columbia Government Failings

Vancouver Island

Oil Spill Response Shows British Columbia Government Failings

 The three founders are aware of the importance of providing environmentally friendly solutions to society. Dragon Sorb has a great deal of experience in handling accidental offshore and onshore spills of oils and chemicals

In 2012, the B.C. government established five situations that had to be achieved before the province would support two proposed pipelines, which would greatly increase tanker traffic to the West Coast.

Number two on that list was the establishment of the “world-leading marine oil spill reaction, prevention and recovery technique.”

Grounding of the Nathan E. Stewart

Unfortunately, in the last seven days, the lack of forward movement on that point was strongly underlined when U.S.-registered tug Nathan E. Stewart ran aground while pushing a massive gasoline barge inside a narrow passage just north of Bella Bella.

Bella Bella, British ColumbiaThankfully for the Terrific Bear Rainforest and the Heiltsuk people who reside there, barge DBL 55 was empty. But an incident report filed in 2011 by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation offers a view of how serious the accident might have been, had the 289-foot (91-metre) fuel barge been loaded.

On Dec. 21 of that year, precisely the same tug and barge went adrift just after engine failure in the vicinity of Cape Fairweather, in the Gulf of Alaska.

The following report stated that the tug had 45,000 (170m3) gallons of diesel and 500 (1.9m3) gallons of lube oil on board. The cargo on board the fuel barge was 2.2 million (83,279m3) gallons of diesel fuel, 1,028 (3.9m3) gallons of aviation gasoline, and 700 (2.65m3) gallons of other petroleum products.

In that incident, no oil was spilled after both the tug and barge were towed to safety.

The Sinking of the Nathan E. Stewart

In the Bella Bella accident the barge that ran aground on a reef was refloated. However, the tug sank, haemorrhaging diesel and other petroleum products. Long before spill response staff arrived from Prince Rupert, a gasoline slick had passed through Gale Pass into a region famous for its abundant clam beds and highly-valued by the Heiltsuk .

Head of the Heiltsuk people, Marilyn Slett, stated that although the tug crew, Coast Guard responders and local volunteers did try to contain the fuel, they lacked sufficient equipment. A reaction crew was dispatched from Prince Rupert, but was more than 20 hours away . The day after the accident, Ms. Slett was still waiting for the spill to be contained.

Slow Going for the Cleanup Effort

Ms. Slett claimed that the experience of the cleanup effort had been a frustrating procedure. She said that here were a lot of people milling about, going into and out of meetings, but when she talked to her people on the ground, the whole process was extremely sluggish. When it came right down to the ‘world-class, oil-spill response’, it just did not come about.

Ms. Slett added that it had been an annoying attempting to get the system mobilised. Ms. Slett also said that it would probably be some time prior before they understood how badly the clam waters were polluted.

Judging from heavy odour of diesel on the garments of the Heiltsuk volunteers who had come back from the spill sites, she appeared deeply anxious.

The Dangers of Large Gasoline Barges

Ingmar Lee, an environmental activist who lives on Denny Island in close proximity to Bella Bella, has been warning for several years about the large gasoline barges meandering up and down the coast of British Columbia.

British Columbia

He had especially been voicing his worries concerning the Nathan E. Stewart, which he first encountered some years ago as it was pushing the DBL 55 through Fitzhugh Sound, south of Bella Bella. He was shocked at the dimensions of the barge and thought it risky for a vessel of that size to be navigating the narrow Inside Passage.

He said that only one small error, a power failure or something similar and within minutes, you could be on the rocks.

The crew of the Nathan E. Stewart learned that the hard way last Thursday.

The Expansion of the Pipelines

The response of the spill that followed is a long way from what B.C. should offer, especially in respect to the rise in tanker traffic that will arrive if either of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project, or Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion go ahead.

Responding to the tug and barge incident, Premier Christy Clark explained that she had argued for five years that the spill reaction was thoroughly insufficient, not just from the point of view of the future pipelines coming from Alberta, but also from what was going up and down the coastline at the moment. She also agree with the critics, saying that there comments about the spill were very appropriate.

When the pipelines are in place, there will be a lot more tankers on the coast. The government has recognised this for many years but has not, as of yet, put in position the “world-class” oil spill management that British Columbia first mooted in 2012.

A final decision about the proposed $6.8-billion Trans Mountain pipeline is expected by the Federal Cabinet in December. Last June, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned federal approval of the $7.9-billion Northern Gateway challenge after ruling that Ottawa had not adequately consulted the First Nation people.

Source article:  B.C. government’s lack of progress on oil spill response highlighted by tug accident