NEWS

Jet fuel containment, water testing continues in Slocan Valley

07/29/2013 05:08 EDT | Updated 09/28/2013 05:12 EDT
B.C's environment ministry says the vast majority of jet fuel spilled in the Slocan Valley Friday has evaporated, but people are still being warned not to drink, swim or irrigate from Lemon Creek, the Slocan River and a stretch of the Kootenay River.

Environment Minister Mary Polak says crews in the air, on the ground, and on the water monitoring the spread of the slick and the effectiveness of containment booms, are collecting water samples for testing — the results of which should be available Wednesday.

Polak told CBC News Monday morning that the outlook for the cleanup is already much better than if the tanker had been carrying a heavier fuel, such as crude oil.

"There was a fairly large slick originally, but of course this is the type of fuel that does tend to evaporate quickly and also tends to dissipate in the water quickly," she said.

"I would urge people not to misinterpret that as us saying that we believe that this will somehow all evaporate and go away. That is absolutely not the case.

Fuel truck rolled off road

On Friday, a tanker carrying 35,000 litres of jet fuel to helicopters fighting a wildfire rolled into Lemon Creek while driving along a remote logging road.

The noxious fumes forced a temporary widespread evacuation of almost 1,300 people and the implementation of a do-not-use water order that remains in place.

Although the fuel appears to have killed some wildlife and is still collecting in noticeable slicks around the sides of rivers, Polak is optimistic that at least the extent of the spill's reach appears to have been limited.

"We have yet to see anything past the Brilliant Dam," Polak said. "That's very good news in terms of how we can manage to contain the spill and also begin the cleanup."

Residents concerned about their drinking water and the surrounding habitat will get a chance to question officials from the Ministry of Environment, the Interior Health Authority and the company that owns the tanker truck at a 7 p.m. PT meeting Tuesday night at Winlaw's community hall.

Polak also said it is difficult to draw conclusions about transportation issues from this isolated event, but her ministry is learning a lot from the cleanup.

NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert says the spill highlights how, even with good safety protocols in place, one error can lead to devastating consequences.

Chandra Herbert says in light of debates over mass increases in the transport of dangerous goods like oil, gas or other materials, the province cannot take safety for granted.

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