Lemon Creek fuel spill data challenged

A Lemon Creek resident hardest hit by last month’s jet fuel spill dismisses environmental data released this week as “skewed.”

One of the homeowners hardest hit by last month’s fuel spill into Lemon Creek is skeptical of environmental data released this week suggesting no surface water samples have tested positive for contaminants since August 1.

A Lemon Creek resident who was among the hardest hit by last month’s jet fuel spill dismisses environmental data released this week as “skewed.”

“The samples were taken by SNC Lavalin hired by Executive Flight Centre,” Russell Hulbert told the Star. “Interior Health and the Ministry of Environment make assessments and decisions based on that data. Where is a third-party monitor for the people getting the real information that supports us, not Executive Flight Centre?”

Hulbert and his family — including two young children — live on Lemon Creek 2.7 kilometres downstream of the spill site. Displaced since the incident, they have been renting a house in Slocan.

He says they continue to see and smell fuel in their water, which comes from a well 30 meters away from the creek. They have no idea how long it will be before they will able to use their water again, and fear it may not be until next year at runoff.

In a conference call this week, officials said no surface water samples have tested positive for fuel contamination since August 1, and samples collected from at-risk shallow wells downstream of the spill site haven’t detected any fuel — but Hulbert isn’t buying it.

He questioned whether the samples were actually taken from the surface or sub-surface. He also doubts air samples taken in his yard are accurate. “I look at the test results and can’t believe it. I’m appalled. I have serious concerns about the way the samples were taken with regard to the type of fuel.”

Hulbert added he has received little support beyond an offer of three days of accommodation in Castlegar and a potable water station at Lemon Creek which was removed four days ago.

“We have nowhere to live and have been given no assistance. We’ve had no backing from some members of our local and provincial government. We’re getting flopped on. We’re not happy about it.”

He did have praise, however, for those working for clean-up contractor Quantum Murray: “They’re the only ones who have been doing anything. They’re the only ones who have had my back.”

The fuel spill on July 26 saw 33,000 litres of jet fuel enter Lemon Creek and in turn the Slocan and Kootenay rivers. Interior Health issued an order not to use the water for consumption or recreation soon after. It was removed in stages between August 6 and 9.