Fuel spills into Porcupine River

Approximately a thousand litres of diesel fuel was spilled at Old Crow's tank farm on the banks of the Porcupine River Monday evening. The incident occurred at about 8:30 p.m.

Approximately a thousand litres of diesel fuel was spilled at Old Crow’s tank farm on the banks of the Porcupine River Monday evening.

The incident occurred at about 8:30 p.m. when a planeload of fuel was being used to fill the tanks, confirmed Joe Linklater, chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.

“Somebody forgot to do the switchover, so they were pumping fuel into a full tank and then the tank overflowed,” he said.

A response plan was put into action immediately after the spill was discovered, said Linklater.

“Just by coincidence we had an engineering firm doing assessments on a couple of other sites in Old Crow, and a person from YTG Environment doing the assessment as well. So she was able to get onto the site and assess whether or not everything was done right, and everything was done right immediately after the spill.”

One of the biggest concerns was fuel seeping into a nearby creek that flows into the Porcupine River, he said.

Crews acted by blocking a culvert with sandbags to contain the flow, and the mouth of the creek was dammed, too, where it flows into the river.

“We are able to get suction trucks in there to suction off the contaminated water,” said Linklater.

Spill kits were also used to soak up some of the mess, he said.

The total amount of fuel that was spilled is still unknown, said Linklater. The next step will be to assess the situation and develop a remediation plan.

“It’s unfortunate that this happened but oddly enough we had the right people in town to make sure that we were doing all the right things to deal with this as quickly as possible.”

A spokesperson with Environment Yukon confirmed that an unknown portion of the spill did end up in the Porcupine River.

“The department and environmental protection officers have advised the responsible party to take all reasonable measures to immediately confine the spill in order to protect the environment and public health,” said Melissa Madden.

The party responsible for the spill is required to clean up the site in accordance with the Environment Act, she said.

Neither Madden nor Linklater would confirm what person or organization is responsible for the spill and therefore for the cleanup.

According to the Environment Yukon website, soil contaminated by fuel typically must be removed and treated at a designated facility.

Once the remediation work is complete, additional sampling must be done to determine that the ground is no longer contaminated.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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