Aproximately 1000 litres of contaminated material has been recovered as cleanup of the jet fuel spilled into Lemon Creek last week is underway.
Executive Flight Centre reports Quantum Murray is progressing with the clean-up efforts as the product is being skimmed off the water into a vacuum truck, says Shael Gelfand, communications for EFC.
Last Friday, a tanker truck overturned as it came down the Lemon Creek forest service road dumping 33,000 litres of fuel into the water.
A collection boom is set up at the confluence of the lower Slocan and Kootenay Rivers. EFC is also now using a team from Polaris Applied Sciences led by Elliot Taylor of Kirkland, Washington to conduct a Shoreline Clean-up Assessment Technique or SCAT. Taylor is a “world-renown expert in spill clean-up operations,” says Gelfand.
EFC is asking the public to help them identify locations in the creek and river where fuel is present.
“If you spot a site, identify the exact location and forward the information along with your name and contact to the Executive Flight Centre toll free number,” says Gelfand.
RCMP have issued a Vessel Operating Restrictions for the Slocan River from Lemon Creek to the Kootenay River which will be lifted when the clean-up has been completed. It is intended to protect workers engaged in cleaning the river as well as to protect the public. This order includes kayaks and canoes.
Despite signs put along the waterways, Regional Fire Chief Terry Swann hears that people are still entering Lemon Creek and the Slocan River. As of Tuesday night’s information meeting in Winlaw, 40 signs were in place. More were clearly needed and members of the community offered to handle this to Swan’s pleasure.
“That would be a great thing,” said Swan. “You certainly know your area enough to know where we need these things.”
Water quality monitoring and testing is underway by SNC Lavalin which taking samples of water, sediment and dead fish found in some channels.
Water test results are being sent to Interior Health to assist in making a decision on when the Do Not Use water order can be lifted. Residents still cannot use the water from Lemon Creek of the Slocan River for drinking, washing, watering livestock and gardens as well as for recreational use.
“The order is causing hardship for many residents, but is in effect to protect your health,” says Gelfand. “We are working to have the order lifted as soon as possible however public health and safety remain our top concerns.”
The smell of jet fuel is still apparent in the Lemon Creek area and responders equipped with gas monitors have been testing the air quality outside residences close to the spill site. The monitoring found no detectable levels of explosive gas, says Gelfand.
She warns that individuals asking if they would like testing on water and air quality done have solicited some residents. Interior Health representatives will have proper identification and is only responding to inquiries, not calling residents.
Many residents in the Valley are still waiting for promised testing and are growing impatient. Many are also confused as contradicting information comes forward. Farmers and gardeners are still unsure as to the safety of their food crops, for example. While some have heard they are to be thrown out, others report health officers say fumes from the fuel, once evaporated, is of negligible risk for contamination.
“Garden vegetables, fruit, eggs, and dairy milk that were contacted by the fuel vapor are safe to consume as long as they do not smell like fuel or have a fuel sheen,” says Interior Health’s Tracy Watson. “Interior Health is advising residents to thoroughly wash fruit and vegetables with alternate water sources to remove any dirt and debris prior to consumption. Food products that have been irrigated with contaminated water and smell like fuel should be discarded.”
Well water could also be at risk and testing is available for those sources as well.
“Shallow wells close to the creek or rivers, particularly those in gravel/sandy soils, may be impacted. Residents should not use well water if there is a fuel smell in the well or at any tap,” says Watson.
Potable water is still available at the fire halls in Crescent Valley, Winlaw, Passmore and on Kennedy Road in Lemon Creek with the tanks being filled three times a day.
The cause and circumstance surrounding the incident are still under investigation by Transport Canada and by EFC safety team. Anyone with questions about losses or claims must follow the procedure as set out by the insurance company. A new special claims number has been established.
RCMP Sgt. Darryl Little told the crowd assembled at Tuesday’s meeting in Winlaw that an investigation falls under the Ministry of Forest jurisdiction because it happened on a forest service road. If criminal charges were warranted, RCMP would handle the case.
“The preliminary investigation that we’ve seen so far is that there’s nothing of a criminal nature that would warrant a police investigation,” he said.
In effort to secure additional provincial resources dedicated to the crisis, a new unified command structure combining the Ministry of Environment, RDCK, Interior Health and Executive Flight Centre.
Executive Flight Centre: firstname.lastname@example.org
Response website: www.lemoncreekresponse.ca
Toll free: 1-855-399-1694 (staffed 8:00am-4:00pm PDT)
Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK): 1-800-268-7325
Interior Health Authority- Health Protection: 250-420-2240
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure: 250-387-3198
Claims inquiries: 1-800-880-8384