A tugboat that capsized along the Fraser River, spilling unknown amounts of diesel fuel between Richmond and Vancouver, is expected to be recovered on Wednesday.
Ledcor Group, which owns the 19-metre tug, said a one-day delay was necessary to bring in an additional larger crane and barge. The vessel sank at around 10 p.m. on Monday and crews had it contained by early Tuesday, with plans on lifting it soon.
It’s uncertain what the impact of the spill will be on the ecosystem. “Right now it’s too early to see what that looks like,” Canadian Coast Guard spokesman Dan Bate said.
Four people were on board the vessel, which was towing a loaded gravel barge when it sank late Monday night. The crew of a nearby tug rescued the four and they are safe, Mr. Bate said. It’s not yet known what caused the tug to capsize.
Western Canada Marine Response Corp. (WCMRC), a marine spill company hired by Ledcor, arrived on scene early Tuesday, WCMRC communications manager Michael Lowry said.
By that time, Ledcor had already deployed a containment boom. WCMRC laid down sorbent pads – pads that absorb lighter fuels such as diesel that can’t easily be picked up by brush skimmers.
“Since then, we’ve recovered roughly 15 garbage bags filled with absorbent pads,” Mr. Lowry said on Tuesday.
The spill-response company deployed a secondary containment boom and two additional boats as a precaution, and remained on standby Tuesday evening.
Divers spent Tuesday plugging vents and assessing salvage and rigging options for the vessel, according to the Canadian Coast Guard.
The tugboat’s fuel capacity is 22,000 litres, but it’s not clear how much it was carrying when it capsized or how much spilled into the river.
Mr. Lowry said the spill was well contained early on and that “all signs point to this being relatively minor.”
Jag Sandhu, a spokesman for the City of Vancouver, said the city’s Environmental Protection Branch assessed nearby Deering Island on Tuesday and found no sign of sheen or smell. As a precaution, the Vancouver Park Board closed the beach at Fraser River Park, upstream from the spill site.
The City of Richmond also closed McDonald Beach Park for public health reasons and to help facilitate the coast guard’s response efforts, city spokesman Ted Townsend said.
Other responding agencies include the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, the Musqueam First Nation and Transport Canada.
In a statement, the First Nation said the fuel spill is “of great concern” to the Musqueam people, who fish for salmon in the Fraser River.
Musqueam has deployed staff to monitor the containment and cleanup, it said. However, Chief Wayne Sparrow expressed frustration that the First Nation did so without any federal support from the $1.5-billion Oceans Protection Plan.
“The impact of what has happened with this immediate situation is an indication of what is to come as far as additional tanker traffic, barges and pollution,” Mr. Sparrow said in a statement. “We are not in opposition to Canada’s plan on industrialization of the river, but we need to be there at the front of any kind of emergency response, period.”
With a report from The Canadian Press