Interior Health has been advised that cleanup activities for a section of the Slocan River have been completed as restrictions are slowly being lifted after the July 26 jet-fuel spill into Lemon Creek.
All Do Not Use water restrictions on the Slocan River south of the Winlaw Bridge and nearby containment booms have been removed.
“This means that water drawn from this area may be consumed, and that it is now safe for recreational purposes from a health perspective,” says Interior Health communications officer Tracy Watson.
Water samples provided by the Ministry of Environment and agencies contracted by Executive Flight Centre meet the Canadian Guidelines for Drinking Water.
As well, visual assessments of the containment booms and shorelines have not detected levels of fuel that pose health concerns.
Until further notice, a Do Not Use order for drinking water and recreational use remains in effect for Lemon Creek and the Slocan River north of the Winlaw Bridge.
SNC Lavalin who has been contracted by Executive Flight Centre (EFC) continues to do testing of affected water.
“This testing will help determine when the remaining Do Not Use order can be lifted,” says Watson.
Containment booms have also been removed from the Kootenay River above Brilliant Dam. Executive Flight Centre’s Jonathon Lok reports no detectable or observable product in these locations either.
“Quantum Murray deployed boats and crews to collect the boom equipment and continues to take all appropriate steps to ensure the residual contamination is captured and removed to a licensed waste facility,” says Lok. “This is a very positive step in the clean-up process.”
In areas where soil is impacted, the soil is being removed and trucked to a separate licensed waste facility. A significant amount of contaminated water and soil has been recovered.
An air quality assessment completed over the last week shows atmospheric concentrations have been well within established government standards. Lok explains odors continue to dissipate, however, the smell of jet fuel is still occasionally apparent.
“It is important to understand that smell does not constitute a health hazard,” he says.
The Resiliency Centre established at Winlaw elementary is seeing an increasing number of people through its doors.
“More than 30 people each day are accessing shower and washroom facilities, getting information, and speaking with disaster counselors,” says Lok. “Staff at the Resiliency Center can provide a private place to discuss how the incident has affected residents and their families and provide direction and support to those who are affected.”
A job fair hosted by EFC at the Sandman Hotel on Wednesday had over 150 people from across the region interview for positions with Quantum Murray, the company hired for cleanup.
The 18 people hired will begin working in the upcoming days.
“These employees will work with clean-up crews in a non-hazardous capacity and provide welcome relief to responders who have been on site for nearly two weeks,” said Lok.
MLA Katrine Conroy and MP Alex Atamanenko are commending their constituents for their resilliancy and are letting them know that they are committed to assisting with the crisis for the long term.
They are working with various provincial and federal agencies and ministries, along with the Regional District directors and staff. Conroy has been in direct communication with the Minister of Environment’s office, and has also been in regular contact with RDCK Directors Popoff, Davidoff and Vice-Chair Elliot.
“Working together with Director Popoff, we have secured a visit to the area from Minister of Environment, Mary Polak, in late August or early September,” says Conroy.
“I am pleased that Minister Polak will be able to see first-hand the extent of the consequences of the fuel spill,” says Atamanenko. “And I have learned that the federal government is prepared to contribute funding to the province for disaster relief, if it is required.”
Both Atamanenko and Conroy attended the community meeting held at the Winlaw Hall on July 30, and have spoken to many people who have contacted their offices directly. They will continue to work to ensure that the provincial and federal governments are aware of the seriousness of the disaster.