The company that owned a tanker truck responsible for a jet fuel spill in the Slocan Valley of British Columbia says it is providing water to local residents for now but it is not responsible for doing so, and a longer-term plan is needed.
Executive Flight Centre set up four water tanks in the Slocan Valley for residents affected by an ongoing do-not-use water order issued by the Interior Health Authority.
But vandals have twice targeted one of the tanks, knocking it down and emptying the water, and company spokesman Wayne Smook said the issue is under discussion.
“To expedite things, the company put out those four stations because people needed water and we understood that. Typically, this type of requirement or responsibility most likely rests with the regional district or within the government resources,” Smook said Friday.
“The four stations are there and we’re going to continue on filling them but we need to develop a little longer-term strategy and that’s happening in the command post as we speak.”
The do-no-use water order remains in place a week after the truck rolled July 26 into Lemon Creek, south of Castlegar, B.C., spilling 35,000 litres of jet fuel into the waterway that feeds into the Slocan River.
As many as 1,500 residents along the river were under an evacuation order overnight after the spill.
Some dead shore birds and fish have been found along the shore, but Smook said he’s not aware of any larger wildlife killed by the toxic fuel.
There is no estimate for how much longer the clean-up will take, and no estimate for how much it has cost so far.
The tanker rolled into Lemon Creek on a remote logging route last Friday while en route to refuel helicopters fighting a wildfire. A week later, approximately 1,000 litres of contaminated material had been removed from the water and the shoreline.
It is believed that about 90 per cent of the spilled fuel evaporated. What remains has emulsified in the water into a sludge-like material that a company spokesman said is easier to locate in the water and easier to clean up.
Booms have been placed across the Slocan River where it meets the Kootenay River, and there have been two vacuum trucks in the area along with “a small army” of workers combing the river and shore, Smook said.
RCMP closed the affected section of the Slocan River to all boat traffic on Friday.
Health authorities had already warned against swimming in the water and police said the further restriction was put in place to protect clean-up crews and prevent members of the public from becoming entangled in booms.
“At this point there’s really no use of the river,” said Anitra Winje, spokeswoman for the Regional District of Central Kootenay.
Beleaguered residents are also warned that unauthorized individuals posing as health authority staff had contacted some residents, seeking to conduct water and air quality tests.
“Please be advised that Interior Health is only responding to inquiries for on-site assessments and is not proactively calling anyone,” Interior Health said in a bulletin.
“Residents should exercise caution if approached. All IH staff will have photo ID and will identify themselves and provide business cards.”
Dr. Andrew Larder, of Interior Health, said some area physicians have reported patients coming in affected by the jet fuel fumes, but there have been relatively few.
But fuel is still visible in the river and along the shoreline, and the do-not-use water order remains in place.
“It will remain in place until we have evidence that the vast bulk of the material has been removed or is dissipated, and I don’t know how long that will be,” Larder said.