Photos: Dave Grant & Mohammed
by LAURA KEIL & KORIE MARSHALL
A B-Train fuel truck went off the road March 2nd just before 6a.m. spilling much of its load onto the nearby soil and into the Fraser River.
Highway 16 was was closed for several hours as the spill was contained.
Clean-up crews were still on site at noon Thursday, using sweepers, mechanical shovels and vacuum trucks. A Ministry of Environment spokesperson says at least 20,000 litres of diesel spilled from the truck into the surrounding environment. The accident occurred roughly 2km east of the Mt. Robson Visitor Information Centre in an area known as Shale Hill. The truck was reportedly carrying 50,000 litres of fuel.
The Ministry of Environment say it is unknown how much fuel entered the river. While a sheen was detected below the accident, no sheen was reported Thursday 2 km below the incident at the bridge over the Fraser River (Hargreaves Rd), the Ministry says.
The Fraser River is a key salmon spawning river and contains other fish spawning habitat as well.
Mt. Robson resident David Grant says the embankment descents about 25 metres to the Fraser River, but at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday there was still a sheen across the water downstream. The smell of diesel was very strong, and he could still smell it this morning.
“It reeked of diesel in Hargreaves – we’re talking 2km down from the spill point. The smell! we’re not talking about a little whiff of WD40.”
He says he frequently fishes in that area for Rainbow trout, calling it his “honey hole.” But he won’t be fishing there this year.
“12 hours later and there’s still a sheen on the river.”
Grant wonders why the response crew didn’t put a boom across the narrow part of the canyon below the spill to help mitigate damage to the river.
Grant also notes that the corner where the truck left the road is notorious for accidents.
“This is a chokepoint for overturned vehicles and disasters, so why wasn’t there something in place?” he said of the emergency response.
Cpl Jay Grierson of the Robson Valley RCMP says the investigation into the cause of the accident is still ongoing, but he believes weather conditions – near freezing with slush and the chance of black ice – are likely contributing factors. He says there were two other unrelated accidents in the area the same morning.
A Ministry spokesperson says the truck belonged to Federated COOP – Edmonton, and the company has sent a contractor and staff to the site to assist with the clean-up. The truck was righted later in the day on Wednesday and there was no further leakage.
Ministry Environmental Emergency Response Officers continue to monitor the site and oversee cleanup by the contractor hired by the responsible party, the Ministry says.
Meanwhile Grant shakes his head that this much fuel found its way into the headwaters of what’s dubbed the “world’s greatest salmon spawning river.”