by LAURA KEIL & KORIE MARSHALL
Clean up continues after 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 last 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 says 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.
Ministry spokesperson David Karn says initial containment in this type of incident usually includes stopping the leak, re-positioning the source of the spill to keep substances below the area of leakage, or placing another means of containment underneath the leak. It can also include an effort to stop the spread of contaminants by building a berm, building a dam, and plugging culverts.
He says the Ministry typically requires sampling and monitoring to assess the impacts and presence of any residual contamination once the initial cleanup has occurred.
After the emergency response phase has concluded, Karn says the incident may require ongoing remediation to address any residual contamination remaining in soil, sediments or groundwater. These requirements are set out in the province’s Contaminated Sites Regulation.
As far as the remediation of the river and along riverbanks, he says techniques implemented must consider the impact on the species and habitat present in the area they are being applied to in order to avoid or minimize the potential of causing additional damage or further impede the recovery of the environment. In other words a “net environmental benefit analysis” must first be done.
Karn says full clean-up and recovery can range from days, to weeks, to months, to years depending on the specific factors involved and will be guided by further assessment.
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.