Interior Health is warning residents and visitors to avoid drinking from or swimming in the Slocan and Kootenay rivers downstream from the site of a jet fuel spill into Lemon Creek until further notice. The advisory extends to the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia rivers at Castlegar.
Well water is not affected, however, and tap water in Castlegar and Trail is safe for all uses as they draw from alternate sources.
In a news release Sunday, the health authority also advised residents to avoid eating fish from those rivers.
Dr. Trevor Corneil, medical health officer, said he does not expect any long-term effects from the jet fuel spill but wants residents to take precautions in the short-term.
“Certainly above the [Brilliant] dam, it’s a do not use water advisory which includes drinking, swimming, fishing and recreation until such time as the Ministry of Environment is able to sort out that things are clean,” Corneil told the Castlegar News in a phone interview Sunday.
“Individuals who have their own gardens on the water should wash all vegetables and fruits thoroughly but if they are concerned about contamination to dispose of them.”
Corneil said jet fuel observed below the dam is slowly evaporating.
With respect to video showing dead minnows in the Slocan River, Corneil said damage would likely be short term and any long-term ecological impact would be clarified by the Ministry of Environment after testing of sediment and fish.
“We do advise people follow our updates for the next 48 to 72 hours,” he said. “We’ve had a small number of people, under 15, presenting just within the first 24 hours to New Denver emergency. A few people in Nelson, too, but we’re not sure if those were related to the spill. Some people did have burning in their throats but that’s certainly the worst that we have heard. No one has been admitted [to hospital].”
In an earlier news release, Interior Health stated: “The fuel involved (jet fuel A-1) is a volatile organic compound that in high concentrations (liquid or gas) can cause significant damage to skin, lung tissue, gastrointestinal tissue, and brain tissue. Volatile organic compounds such as these can also exacerbate any chronic diseases such as emphysema, heart disease, and neuromuscular disorders.”
If anyone comes into contact with the fuel, the following first aid measures are recommended for those with minor symptoms:
Eye contact: Flush with cool water. Remove contact lenses, if applicable, and continue flushing. Obtain medical attention if irritation persists.
Skin contact: Flush with cool water. Wash with soap and water. Obtain medical attention if irritation persists.
Inhalation: If symptoms develop, move person to fresh air. If symptoms persist, obtain medical attention. If breathing has stopped, trained personnel should administer CPR immediately.
Ingestion: Do not induce vomiting. If vomiting occurs naturally, have person lean forward to reduce risk of aspiration. Never give anything by mouth if person is unconscious, or is convulsing.
Anyone with serious symptoms should call 9-1-1 or go to the closest emergency department.
— With files from Marvin Beatty, Castlegar News