About 1,500 people remained under an evacuation order in British Columbia’s West Kootenay region on Saturday after a truck carrying 35,000 litres of jet fuel crashed into a creek a day earlier, sending toxic fumes into the air.
The truck had been on its way to supply helicopters battling wildfires when it careened into Lemon Creek while travelling along a gravel road in the Slocan Valley.
The area is located about 61 kilometres from Castlegar, B.C.
“There are a number of people that were evacuated,” Bill Macpherson of the Regional District of Central Kootenay told The Canadian Press.
“The evacuation order area was deliberately made quite large because of concerns for people’s health and the possibility that fumes would perhaps get into confined spaces and create some serious health effects.”
While the evacuation isn’t mandatory, Mr. Macpherson said a number of residents checked into emergency centres set up in two schools in Nelson, and another in Slocan City.
Authorities had initially said approximately 800 people living within 300 metres of area waterways were affected by the order, but that zone was widened to cover about 2,500 people living within three kilometres of area waterways.
“Because the plume of fuel was moving into Slocan River and some of its tributaries the evacuation order was expanded,” Mr. Macpherson explained. “That was a precautionary measure and that has since been downscaled.”
The evacuation area was reduced Saturday morning to include only those within 800 metres of area waterways.
Residents living outside the new evacuation zone were allowed to return home, said Mr. Macpherson.
The driver of the tanker that crashed was sent to hospital with minor injuries, but no area residents have reported any medical concerns related to the spill.
“Due to the broad geographic area, no one has been impacted to the best of my knowledge,” said Mr. Macpherson.
Authorities said a Hazmat team from Vancouver was working with other agencies to contain the spill that has seen almost all of the tanker’s 35,000 litres released into Lemon Creek and moving downstream.
“They were in the creek and in the river working at containing it,” said Mr. Macpherson.
An official with B.C.’s Ministry of Environment said the company that owned the tanker — Calgary-based Executive Flight Centre — would be responsible for the cleanup of the fuel, which known as Jet A1.
There were no reports of fish or wildlife impacted by the spill, said the official, who added that the spill was different from a tanker of crude oil being leaked into a waterway.
“It’s like spilling gasoline on the street, it dissipates a lot quicker, whereas crude oil sticks,” the official said.
Environment ministry staff were monitoring the response to the spill.
Authorities said a plume of fumes between up to three kilometres long and 30 to 50 metres wide was hovering above the Brilliant Dam, a hydroelectric dam on the Kootenay River near Castlegar, B.C.
Testing was underway downstream but authorities said air and water sampling upstream on the Slocan River showed little odour and relatively clear samples.
A precautionary do not use order has also been issued to all users of water supplies within the evacuation area and within three kilometres of area waterways.
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