Nearly two weeks after a tanker truck spilled 35,000 litres of jet fuel into a Slocan Valley creek, the Kootenay River has been declared safe for drinking and recreational use by the local health authority.
But two smaller rivers closer to the spill remain off limits, and a jobs fair has been announced to find more local workers to assist in the cleanup effort.
The spill happened in Lemon Creek, about 60 kilometres north of Castlegar, when the truck slipped off a gravel road and tipped over into the water. Lemon Creek flows into the Slocan River, which flows into the Kootenay River.
Health officials say there is no detectable amount of fuel making it out of the Slocan River any more.
However, the plan is for containment booms to remain in place on the Kootenay River as a precaution.
Andrew Larder, senior medical health officer with Interior Health, said he is hopeful the do-not-use advisory on the Slocan River will be lifted soon.
“Likely not the whole Slocan River, it will likely be done in sections,” Dr. Larder said.
“I would say I’m optimistic we will be able to make changes in the near future, rather than weeks from now.”
On Monday, a community support centre was opened in an elementary school in the town of Winlaw, providing potable water, showers and other services for people affected by the spill.
Dr. Larder said he is not aware of any significant health problems caused by the spill so far. “I’ve spoken to two or three physicians with patients complaining of symptoms of exposure to relatively low levels of fumes … headache, nausea, dizziness,” he said.
The company transporting the fuel, Executive Flight Centre (EFC), has had contractors working on cleaning up the pockets of fuel still trapped along the stream banks, but a hiring fair is being held in a Castlegar hotel on Wednesday to find more help.
“The primary environmental contractor responsible for the cleanup is an outfit called Quantum Murray,” said Jonathan Lok, spokesman for the response team organized by EFC. “They’re looking to augment their field crews with local employees who can help with the hose work, moving rocks and vegetation off the stream sides to dislodge the product so it can be picked up by the vacuum trucks.”
When the spill happened on July 26, about 1,500 residents were placed under an evacuation order for a day. Officials estimate the water restrictions have affected more than 3,000 people in the area.