A week after a major jet fuel spill into Lemon Creek, everyone is still talking. From once-evacuated residents back at home sharing information to concerned conversations filling Nelson coffee shops, it was an event whose impact is sure to linger — physically for now, but emotionally much longer.
Clean-up efforts have started in the waterways with booms in place from near the spill at Winlaw all the way down to Brilliant Dam. While this work is front and centre, families are going through their own more private struggle to rid their homes of fumes.
On Tuesday evening, a pregnant mother shared her emotional experiences since returning to a home invaded by something she can’t see but definitely can smell. Jane Flotron launders and scrubs to get rid of residual odors, and “by the end, my hands smell like jet fuel.”
At the root of the tragic spill’s lingering impact is a feeling of insecurity where once a community relished in its pristine pastoral charm. Feeling unsafe in your own home, unable to drink your own water and unsure about eating fresh produce lovingly grown in your own garden must be spirit crushing.
And then there’s the worry about livelihood as many Valley residents supported their families off land touched by toxicity. Monitoring health of horses and other livestock is distressing and being unable to sell commercial crops is devastating.
As the authorities do their utmost to serve the public, there is little they can do for the hearts and minds of impacted people.
This is where the chatter comes to play. Talk among supportive individuals binding together is the best way through a trauma. Before Tuesday night’s public meeting in Winlaw, people gathered for an emotional vigil at the banks of the Slocan River. They sang, prayed, hugged and consoled each other — united in their wishes for healing.
For all that’s happened, strength of community is the critical ingredient to moving beyond an event that started with a spill.