Crews struggle to contain massive oil spill in pristine Canadian river
A desperate battle is ensuing to contain a 21-kilometre slick in a British Columbia river, which is threatening a small town and local wildlife.
An estimated 6,300 barrels (one million litres) of crude oil are racing along the Pine River towards the town of Chetwynd in the north of the state after a pipe ruptured on 1 August. The mayor of the town, population 4,000, believes that it could cause environmental problems for months, or even years.
“It looks bad because it’s not only in the river running. The oil has gone into the back eddies, and up little sloughs,” Chetwynd Mayor Charlie Lasser told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on 3 August. “And so it’ll take months and months – if not years – before the whole thing is absolutely cleaned up and good for drinking water again,” he said.
The town’s water supply was to be turned off on 3 August, when the Pine’s slick was predicted to have arrived in Chetwynd, which depends on the river for its drinking water. At the time of edie’s publication on 4 August, no further information on the position of the slick was available. The town’s reservoir has about six-weeks supply of drinking water.
The situation for local wildlife is believed to be grave. “I believe we won’t be fishing for a long time in the river. I walked down last night and saw probably 200, 300 dead fish along the shores and in the river,” local woman, Donna Vipond, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
The Canadian company that owns the broken pipe, Pembina Pipeline Corporation. is accepting full responsibility for the incident, but is still unsure as to the cause of the rupture. Pembina says that it bought the line from Federated Pipelines Ltd. only hours before the purchase. One possible reason given for the disaster by Pembina’s president, Robert Michaleski, is that after the line’s pumps had been turned off on 31 Jul during an electrical storm, restarting them may have caused a surge of pressure.
On 3 August Pembina had about 70 staff deploying booms to trap the oil, along with British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks and state Oil and Gas Commission staff, who will conduct a full investigation into the accident.
“It’s a fairly fast flowing river. There’s turbulence to it, so it is difficult, in fact pretty much impossible, to fully contain an oil spill in that type of situation,” Rich Girard, manager of pollution prevention with the state. Ministry of the Environment told reporters.
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