LETTER: Spill’s consequences are far reaching

From reader Gerry Nellestijn

Re: “Fuel truck crash kills driver, pollutes Salmo River,” April 4

This is an emotional story, one that first of all needs to acknowledge our sincere sympathy for the family, friends and colleagues of the truck driver who lost his life in an accident that ended up placing the double tanker truck in the South Salmo River.

It’s also a story of extreme environmental disaster. Although we have not been made aware of any clear figures detailing the extent of the spill, it is clear that this is serious. Perhaps the most serious spill of its kind in the West Kootenay. And beyond? In the Salmo River watershed it is likely the single most direct dumping — in this case accidental — of aggressive pollutants into our system since 11 operating stamp mills used the Salmo River, with impunity, to rid themselves of their toxins.

The environmental consequence of the spill will likely have ongoing impacts for years. How many years will be a consequence of how we — humans — treat this disaster? Will we try to let it go, fade away, do nothing? Certainly this is a typical strategy of other environmental disasters unfolding here and beyond. The forest sector disaster, mine tailings restoration, the emerging pipelines disaster, air, soil and water quality disasters that are all happening, again with impunity.

After over two decades of study in the Salmo River watershed, Streamkeepers knows that we need restoration in this river system. We have chosen to use two simple strategies for our aquatic ecosystem community, common strategies to all life: provide a home and food.

The spill will likely have disastrous effects on every variable contributing to food production in the system — the ability of nutrients to respond naturally — to feed periphyton or mosses that feed invertebrates (aquatic bugs) that are the prey species for the rainbow trout and bull trout that are rearing and overwintering downstream of the spill.

Clearly extensive “home renovations” will have to occur to mitigate the impacts of this disaster as well.

Streamkeepers realize that the environment is quickly becoming recognized as the central over-arching social justice issue on the planet. We also recognize that those that benefit from the environment should support a stable approach to restore it. This also applies to those that impact the environment.

Traditionally sectoral interests of the economy, community and the environment have been separated. Thinking today realizes that sectoral separation is a major disadvantage, we all need to work together to make the place where we live better.

Streamkeepers has led, or been part of studies in the South Salmo River and downstream for decades. In this tragedy, our insights have not been consulted or responded to. Regarding this spill and other emerging environmental disasters in this watershed and beyond, it’s time for the exclusion tactic — whatever the reason — of those involved in response to these events to end.

Gerry Nellestijn

Salmo Watershed Streamkeepers Society

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