The company behind the truck that spilled its load of jet fuel into Lemon Creek this summer says the driver got bad directions.
Executive Flight Centre is responding to a class action lawsuit filed by a Slocan Valley resident which names the Province, the helicopter company requiring the fuel for forest fire fighting and the transport company.
Executive Flight Centre says they were given incorrect directions by the province who verbally communicated they should use Lemon Creek Road. They also say the helicopter company Transwest provided no information on how to reach the staging area and delegated directions to the province.
Before the tanker drove up Lemon Creek Road, another Executive Flight Centre driver used the road to try access the fueling station. A maintenance worker, who happened to be on site, told him Lemon Creek wasn’t the proper way to access the staging area and gave out new directions.
Executive Flight Centre says this driver informed the Province of the mistaken directions but nothing was done to rectify the situation.
“The Province knew, or should have know that, in the emergency conditions created by the firefighting operation, motorists involved in that operation, including Executive Fuel’s drivers, might mistakenly use Lemon Creek Road to access the staging area,” reads the company’s response to the lawsuit.
They go on to say the road, under management of the Province, was dangerous and not properly maintained.
On July 26, 33,000 litres of jet fuel entered Lemon Creek and downstream rivers resulting in an evacuation of people and a massive cleanup. Executive Flight Centre says they’ve spent $4 million on that cleanup and wants that bill paid as well as any lawsuit payouts covered.
The Province says they abide by the “polluter-pay principle” which keeps taxpayers from being on the hook for cleanups.
Slocan Valley resident John Wittmayer comments on the “blame game” on Slocan Valley Emergency Response, a Facebook page that has documented the spill and its outcomes.
“There will be this assessing blame game and positioning to reduce the payout,” he says. “Industry should never be allowed to monitor themselves, and they will need to be accountable for their mishaps. The provincial government has an opportunity here to prove that they have the stewardship values to ensure this never happens again. If they ignore their responsibility in the matter, they will confirm what many people already suspect — that they are pro industry at any cost.”