The residents of Adelaide Avenue have discovered the hard way that there is no such thing as a small oil spill, and their experience should warn us not to underestimate the difficulty of cleaning up a tanker spill on our coast. Provincial civil servants have cautioned the government that it doesn’t have the capacity to respond to even a moderate spill.
An incorrectly filled oil tank and an unknown buried tank leaked hundreds of litres of heating oil into the soil under several houses and into the Gorge Waterway. The homeowners face tens of thousands of dollars in cleanup costs, and lawsuits that could go on for years. One house has been demolished because of contamination.
Documents released under freedom of information laws show that provincial staff have warned the government that its emergency resources would be overwhelmed by a moderate spill from a tanker or pipeline. The documents say that Transport Canada and the coast guard don’t have the expertise to manage spills, and any response would be less effective now that the federal government has moved co-ordination to Quebec.
If the Enbridge Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan pipeline projects go ahead, the Pacific coast could see an additional 1,000 tanker trips a year, the government has said.
Saanich says that one cup of oil can contaminate enough water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The Exxon Valdez spilled 176 million cups of oil.
If the provincial and federal governments are going to allow more tanker traffic on the coast, they must dramatically increase our response capability — before a spill, not after.
© Copyright 2013