Thousands of litres of diesel fuel were spilled near Tombstone

Yukoners weren’t told because the spill was contained and there were no safety risks: spokesperson

In mid-February, a tanker truck travelling south of Tombstone Territorial Park crashed, spilling 13,000 litres of diesel fuel, according to an Environment Yukon spokesperson.

The transport “rolled off” the Dempster Highway on Feb. 12, a rock puncturing two compartments and emptying all contents, said Diana Dryburgh-Moraal in a written statement.

The incident impacted a surface area measuring 80 by five metres; fuel seeped down up to four metres at the site.

“It is estimated that 800 to 1000 cubic metres of soil was impacted. The area is very rocky and cold temperatures mean there is a lot of ice,” said Dryburgh-Moraal, adding that these environmental conditions slow remediation efforts.

North 60 Petro is the responsible company, and it’s working with environmental protection officers to monitor cleanup work, she said. The driver wasn’t hurt.

“To date Environment Yukon is satisfied that the responsible party is meeting its legal obligations under the Environmental Protection Order and the Environment Act,” Dryburgh-Moraal said. “At this time, there is no indication the spill has entered any water bodies.”

Julia Duchesne, outreach and communications director with the Yukon Conservation Society, said this is likely the largest spill in the Yukon in roughly two years.

“It’s definitely a huge spill,” she said.

The other incident, which happened in August 2017, involved a truck rollover, where 30,000 litres of gasoline were spilled when its second tank was ruptured, Duchesne said. It had been travelling from Edmonton along the Alaska Highway. The incident happened between Rancheria and Swift Rivers.

Size is one thing, location another. This year’s spill is roughly one kilometre away from Wolf Creek, she said, which starts in Tombstone and flows towards the North Klondike River.

“It’s close to tributaries of the North Klondike River, which is an important river, culturally and ecologically,” she said. “It’s a salmon bearing river.”

While the immediate response to the incident seemed to be “top-notch,” the objective now is to ensure that the best possible cleanup is followed through with, said Duchesne, noting that cold temperatures are hampering remediation.

“Will all of the fuel be cleaned up by the time spring melt occurs?” she said. “Will that fuel travel into the waterways?”

Another concern is that Yukoners weren’t informed of the incident, Duchesne said.

“It’s been two weeks. That’s the first we’ve heard of it,” she said. “It’s everybody’s business when we have a spill of toxic material into the environment.”

(The News informed the society of the issue after receiving a tip this week).

Dryburgh-Moraal said that Yukoners weren’t told, “because the spill was contained and there was no risk to public safety.”

The department sent a report to municipal, territorial and federal agencies, she said.

“The public is alerted of spills when traffic or road conditions are affected, or if there is a risk to public safety. In such a case, the alert will usually come from the RCMP, Highways and Public Works, or Community Services.”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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