[images in on-line article]
Booms fixed after wind spreads diesel fuel from tug sunk near Bella Bella
Spill area home to endangered abalone, clams, sea urchin and juvenile
salmon, Heiltsuk First Nation says
By Yvette Brend, CBC News
Posted: Oct 23, 2016 7:32 AM PT Last Updated: Oct 23, 2016 1:50 PM PT
The booms containing spilled diesel from a sunken tug 20 kilometres west
of Bella Bella have been fixed, but delays allowed the fuel to spread,
along with fears for endangered abalone and other ocean wildlife.
Gale-force winds and three-metre waves hampered efforts to fix the
failed booms, but officials say they've replaced the containment system.
It's unclear how much diesel fuel has spilled, but the tug had 220,000
litres on board when it ran aground on Oct.13.
Less than half of that has been recovered, and that's fanned fears the
fuel will threaten efforts to reintroduce endangered abalone in the
spill area, according to the Heiltsuk First Nation.
A spokeswoman from Kirby Offshore Marine, the tug's owners, say the
company worked to reposition and replace the booms as fast as the high
winds and battering waves allowed.
But bad weather has stalled fixing the stressed — and in some spots
severed — outer boom for the fourth day in a row.
The boom broke free late Friday, releasing diesel fuel which appears
like a rainbow shimmer across the water's surface.
Winds of up to 50 knots have spread the fuel as far as a kilometre away,
according to a press release from the Heiltsuk First Nation.
Fears are growing that the diesel will spread to Gale Passage, which is
a "highly sensitive ecological area," says a release from First Nation.
"In the first week of the spill, we had the largest tides of the month
at 17.4 feet," said Heiltsuk aquatics manager Mike Reid.
"Even without bad weather, the speed of tides rushing through the spill
site are likely to flush diesel into the area," he said.
Reid is worried about diesel contamination of the passage – an area he
believes is vital for a variety of clam species, sea cucumbers, sea
urchin, juvenile salmon and herring, eelgrass, kelp and other marine
The south end of Gale Passage opens into an important herring spawning
area, and the First Nation has been working to recover endangered
abalone in the spill area near the sunken tug.
The spokeswoman for the tug's owners says while it is unclear how much
fuel has spread into the open water, no damaged wildlife has been
detected or captured since the rough weather began Friday.
But Heiltsuk Chief Marilyn Slett says her community is in shock of the
incident and is questioning why more seaworthy booms weren't installed.
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