Eight lengths of absorbent booms from last year’s tanker spill have turned up in Lemon Creek.
Marilyn Burgoon with the Perry Ridge Water Users Association says the materials were discovered May 13 half a kilometre up Lemon Creek forest service road.
A few days earlier, a local resident kayaking in the creek noticed a sheen and smelled fuel. A woman collecting water samples for the water users association then discovered the booms just upstream of the sheen, still smelling strongly.
Burgoon contacted the Ministry of Environment who asked clean-up contractor Quantum Murray to remove and dispose of booms, each about ten feet (3 m) long. That was accomplished Friday.
The ministry said there was no visible fuel or odour detected from the boom at that time and “it is unlikely further material remains at the site.” A spokesman suggested the boom may have been displaced during the initial response, caught in a sheltered location, and then released during spring runoff.
Independent fisheries biologist Otto Langer said the booms are a “fluffy light organic material” that float and absorb fuel products.
“Here that jet fuel smell is still evident some 10 months after the spill even though it would probably have been exposed to the elements,” he said. “I am certain if one looked into the sediments one could also find some jet fuel remaining.”
Langer said he predicted that under a cold water environment, jet fuel wouldn’t evaporate or break down as quickly as consultants suggested and would remain in the creek until spring. He also said a good flood is needed to flush some of the last residual fuel out of the creek.
Burgoon said she’s concerned the discovery of the booms are signs of a lack of government oversight. “The ministry is so short staffed, they’re not really overseeing it in a way I think they should be. How is it that someone didn’t see those booms besides a local resident?”
She was also concerned “deleterious material” could have leached out of the booms and back into the creek over the winter.
Burgoon said she feels community groups are increasingly taking on roles previously handled by Ministry of Environment, including ongoing water sampling.
“We’re the ones doing the work of overseeing when something like this happens. We love the river so we do it, but it’s a burden on the community who are the victims of the spill.”
The incident last July saw a tanker truck carrying jet fuel for helicopters batting a forest fire on Perry Ridge make a wrong turn onto a forestry road. It tipped over, spilling 33,000 litres of fuel into the creek, which then flowed into the Slocan and Kootenay rivers.
Executive Flight Centre, the company that owned the tanker, has an plan to monitor, assess, and document the distribution and concentration of residual contaminants.
(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Otto Langer’s name.)