Haz-mat crews at work on fuel spill in Gorge Waterway

Animals chewing on copper line coming from a home fuel-oil tank could be the culprits in a 1,000-litre spill into the Gorge Waterway.

The spill — at least the third to enter the Gorge in the past year — was discovered about 10 a.m. Friday. It was traced to a broken fuel line at a modular home just off Admirals Road, about 500 metres from where the oil entered the water, said David Rogers of B.C. Hazmat.

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He said the homeowners suspected a problem when their furnace wouldn’t start. They also noticed a fuel smell and called their fuel company, which went to the home and discovered the leak.

Rogers said the exact cause of the spill should be known this week, but noted that the oil tank, which had been filled just a few days earlier, was in good shape.

B.C. Hazmat, the View Royal and Esquimalt fire departments, and Esquimalt municipal staff all responded.

“We called View Royal fire out because there was pooling underneath the house and, with that, it was unsafe for the homeowners to be there,” Rogers said.

Hazardous-materials crews were at the Gorge until late Friday, returned Saturday and will be back again today.

They will monitor the site for at least a week.

Rogers said the woman at the home was “almost in tears” when told the oil had reached the Gorge.

“She was just devastated that this would happen,” he said. “It almost immediately got into the storm-drain system and flowed straight into the Gorge.”

No birds or other animals appear to have been affected, and members of environmental groups checking the scene were pleased with the outcome, Rogers said.

Esquimalt workers were first to respond and installed temporary booms right away. “That did a good job to hold it back, to give us time to get in with a containment boom to be able to hold anything back,” Rogers said.

Wind and rain forecast for today should help get the remaining oil out of the storm system, he said.

“Mother Nature is going to come in and give us a hand to clean out the pipe.”

Rogers said he has been told that the homeowners could face a hefty bill, as most insurance does not cover such spills.

A spill in the Gorge was also reported Jan. 6, just a day after a spill in Bowker Creek.

Fuel oil from a defective tank that had been in the ground for years caused the Bowker Creek spill and is the suspected cause of the Gorge spill, which was traced to a home on nearby Walter Avenue.

Last May, several waterfowl were affected when motor oil and engine-cleaning fluid spilled into the Gorge via Gorge Creek.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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