Following a northern Ontario steel plant’s lubricant oil spill into St. Mary’s River, local officials downstream in Echo Bay have shut off their water treatment plant’s intake pipe to avoid contamination in Lake George.
The Sault Ste. Marie-area river may have had upwards of 1,250 litres of heavy machinery oil deposited on June 9 as the result of an incident at the steel company’s water treatment plant, said Algoma Steel’s new CEO, Michael Garcia.
“This event certainly did not live up to the high standard we set for ourselves,” Garcia wrote in an issued statement. “I assure you the entire Algoma team has felt the weight of this incident’s impact on our community. We are focused on mitigating any possible impact and are grateful for the collaboration with all parties involved as we work together to do what needs to be done to protect the environment,” he added.
Garcia said that the steel company’s “technical assessment of the incident” is ongoing as they work towards preventing potential future spills.
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Additionally, Algoma Public Health warned local residents that if they live downstream, or east, of Algoma Steel Inc. and Great Lakes Power, and have dug a well close to the shoreline, there may be risk of contamination from the spill. The water advisory was lifted for users of the St. Mary’s River on June 21.
Echo Bay has a tower that is able to provide drinking water for several days, officials said. However, the municipality has also begun bringing in trucks to supply clean drinking water.
Algoma Steel has stated it will cover the costs of purchasing and transporting clean water to Echo Bay, which remains in a state of emergency.
St. Mary’s River has a strong current that officials fear may send water further east in the watershed.
A visible oil sheen on the St. Mary’s River started to disperse on Wednesday.
Echo Bay’s water plant will remain closed until officials are satisfied that sample results indicate no potential threat for the drinking water supply. The township currently has an “essential water use only” order in place, to conserve water until tests show that it is safe to draw water from Lake George.