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Forestry company spills diesel during failed fuel transfer process on B.C. coast

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As the result of a failed fuel transfer process, a forestry company has claimed responsibility for spilling some 4,500 litres of diesel fuel into waters near the Mouth of Dinan Bay on Haida Gwaii off the coast of British Columbia.

Haida Gwaii-based company Taan Forest, which procures and sells timber, indicated in a statement that during the early morning hours of April 22, a valve failed when feeding diesel to an electrical generator on the company’s barge.

According to the company, oil-absorbing booms and sorbent pads were deployed directly following the spill, with particular effort directed toward keeping the diesel plume away from the shoreline and mouths of nearby rivers, especially those where sockeye salmon are expected to return. Biologists continue to sample water, soil and marine life to assess impacts from the spill near Masset Inlet.

Taan Forest says it has retained Pacificus Biological Consulting to determine any impacts to fisheries.

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“Taan Forest conducted a low-level helicopter flight and identified small amounts of sheen to which ground crews were directed for shoreline monitoring,” the company indicated in a statement to media. “Currently, there have been no observations of recoverable oil; however, non-recoverable sheens have been observed and will be assessed.”

Taan Forest said “diesel is non-persistent, meaning it dissipates rapidly” and the company estimated as much as 75% of the spill evaporated after roughly 12 hours.

The last diesel fuel spill of significance in the vicinity was the 2016 incident in Bella Bella, when a vessel ran aground and released some 107,552 litres of diesel fuel and 2,240 litres of lubricants. 

For the most recent spill, the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy are monitoring the spill response in coordination with the forestry company and the Council of the Haida Nation, as well as federal authorities from the Canadian Coast Guard, Environment Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The Council of the Haida Nation compiled environmental sensitivity maps of the spill area to share with responding agencies.

As of April 25, cleanup teams reported no diesel observed on the water, with much of the spill dissipating, evaporating and recovered by response crews.

All deployed spill response gear has been collected for disposal in compliance with its waste management plan, the company explained.

“For the protection of public health, the environment, and areas of cultural importance, members of the public are asked to avoid the area while work continues,” a Taan Forest spokesperson said in a statement.

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