Vancouver oil spill shows weak response by feds

B. McPherson

Update: The Canadian Coast Guard is reporting that all the recoverable oil has been removed from the water. What does that really mean? You know that means that besides that oil that is now polluting Vancouver beaches is also in the water. While our Coast Guard personnel do the best job possible in the circumstances, you and I know that taking six hours to contain what is a tiny spill is not good enough. Let's remember that the Feds closed the Vancouver Harbour Coast Guard station and plan to remove even more disaster protection from one of the country's biggest ports.

An oil spill Wednesday in Vancouver, BC, showed the residents how an oil spill would likely play out. The oil was spotted in that part of the harbour known as English Bay and reported by a sailor.

At 5pm the oil slick was reported. Three hours later a crew showed up to try to contain the spill of heavy bunker oil. It took until 2 am Thursday morning for crews to put a containment boom around a freighter believed to be the source of the spill. The oil was believed to be from a refueling incident. City officials were not notified of the spill until another four hours had passed – 6 am on Thursday.
It may be an exaggeration to say that the city people set their hair on fire over this lapse in sensible emergency response, but it is close. They quickly despatched personnel trained in emergency response as well as wildlife experts who could assess the damage.

The toxic oil spill was minor from an industrial point of view, probably caused by careless handling of refuelling lines. Only about 2,800 litres made it into the water. Only about 1,400 were recovered. This event happened in very sheltered waters on a sunny spring day with hours of daylight, calm waters and close-by people.

The weather was fine enough that some people were swimming at the sandy beaches that line English Bay. Other people were jogging, throwing sticks into the water for their dogs and generally enjoying the beautiful scenery that Vancouver is known for. That is until sticky black globules started landing on the sand. There is no death count so far on the number of shore birds and harbour seals that got hit with this poison.

Many people in BC have been speaking up and opposing increased oil tanker ships in the coastal waters. There is a proposal by the American Kinder Morgan to double or triple oil capacity to the harbour. An increase of hundreds of mega-tankers to Vancouver harbour would result if approved.
Also proposed is a scheme by the consortium known as Enbridge to force a heavy oil pipeline to the Central Coast of BC which would attract hundreds more supertankers each year. The coastal area is sparsely populated and has wild weather as the norm. I leave it to you to guess the consequences of one tanker disgorging its cargo into those pristine waters.

Vancouver Sun                 

Radio station CKNW

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