Rain clears storm drains of fuel-oil spill near Gorge

The rain that pelted Victoria over the weekend helped clean out the storm-drain system feeding a heating-oil spill on the Gorge Waterway, virtually eliminating any pollution threat.

B.C. Hazmat’s David Rogers said that absorptive booms replaced on Sunday night were “lily-white and clean” on Monday, meaning no oil had reached them.

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“Mother Nature did a great job with all the rain on Sunday morning pushing the oil,” said Rogers, whose company deals with hazardous-materials incidents and also provides training.

B.C. Hazmat crews were alerted Friday about the spill just south of the Craigflower Bridge, and responded by setting up booms where the oil was reaching the water. Rogers said 1,000 litres of oil drained from a residential tank at a modular home about half-a-kilometre away from the Gorge and made its way to the water via the storm drain.

The tank is in good shape and the oil leaked from a broken fuel line, he said, leading to the notion that animals, possibly rats, had chewed through the line.

“It’s certainly the best [theory] I have,” Rogers said.

He said the exact cause of the spill is still not known because there is so much water underneath the home.

“I don’t think we’re going to get under there for a couple of days.”

Yogi Carolsfield of the World Fisheries Trust said B.C. Hazmat did a commendable job and helped keep the spill from spreading. The issue of spills demands public attention, he said.

“We were lucky this time.”

Rogers said there is still work to be done with the spill.

“We are going to leave the booms in place, both the containment and the white booms in place, until at least the end of the week — maybe the weekend because they’re talking about more rain on the weekend.”

B.C. Hazmat will monitor the area daily, and Esquimalt municipal staff will be looking in as well, Rogers said.

“So everybody’s on board.”

He said the spill is “really unfortunate” but the response has worked out well.

The incident follows a Jan. 6 spill at the opposite shore of the Gorge, with a leaking fuel tank the suspected source. A spill last May that entered the Gorge from Gorge Creek reached a number of waterfowl.

The issue of residential fuel spills and problem tanks will be tackled in a public forum being held Feb. 5 from 7-9 p.m. at Spectrum Community School. Rob Fleming, NDP MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake, said an expert panel is being assembled and will look at steps that can be taken to prevent such spills from occurring.

Fleming is co-hosting the event with Lana Popham, NDP MLA for Saanich South.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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