Ready to boom, DND employees contain harbour fuel spill

Peter Mallett, Lookout Booms deployed in Plumber Bay by DND staff on May 8 helped contain a fuel spill that occurred in the overnight hours when a privately owned barge ran aground.

Peter Mallett, Lookout
Booms deployed in Plumber Bay by DND staff on May 8 helped contain a fuel spill that occurred in the overnight hours when a privately owned barge ran aground.

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

DND personnel are being heralded for their quick action and cooperation in helping reduce the impact of last week’s fuel spill in Esquimalt Harbour.

On the morning of May 8, Staff from Port Operations and Emergency Services Branch (POESB) responded to the incident, and promptly deployed a boom before approximately 30,000 litres of diesel that spilled into Plumper Bay could disperse more widely into Esquimalt  harbour.

“I truly believe that if it weren’t for the fast action of DND personnel this incident could have been exponentially worse,” said Duane Freeman, head of the base’s Formation Environment Section.

“This was a successful response effort by everyone involved that helped to reduce the impact of a significant environmental incident.”

The spill occurred after a large construction barge owned by Vancouver Pile Driving broke from its moorings during a fierce overnight wind storm.

The barge was pushed a short distance by the winds and current and eventually ran aground on a rock strewn beach located near the Esquimalt First Nation.

At approximately 9 a.m. the Regional Joint Operations Centre (RJOC) received a call from a concerned citizen via marine radio. Within minutes of receiving the call RJOC dispatched three personnel from POESB in a 24-foot Fast Response Vessel.

Chris Florkow, Alex Mihov and Andrew Dierks, three civilian employees who normally work aboard the Firebrand, deployed a large floating boom to contain the spill.

“They were fast and didn’t think twice about it when they heard what was going on, and arrived on the scene in 15 minutes,” said Lyle Fairley, from POESB.

“They grabbed a length of the boom that was being towed by the boat, jumped out of the boat and deployed the boom around the slick. As they were doing this they said they could clearly hear large quantities of the fuel gushing out of the grounded vessel.”

As they were busy containing the fuel, Fairley relayed the information about the size and scope of the spill back to RJOC, who immediately contacted Freeman at about 10 a.m. Freeman then got in touch with Emergency Management B.C. who fanned out the information to the appropriate municipal, provincial and federal officials, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada and Environment Canada to alert them to the spill.

Vancouver Pile Driving employees were also quick to respond, arriving promptly at the spill site to begin cleanup operations.

Fairley and Freeman both indicated weather conditions played a big role in containing the spill as the strong southerly winds and direction of the currents and tide managed to keep the slick isolated in the northern corner of Plumper Bay.

Workers from the Vancouver Pile Driving and various government and industry response personnel took control of the spill site from DND early in the afternoon to begin cleanup operations.

Most of the 30,000 litres of diesel were recovered by Western Canada Marine Response in the marine cleanup operations that concluded May 11.

Shoreline recovery was started by Quantum Murray on the afternoon of May 10.

At press time, Fisheries and Oceans Canada were prohibiting the harvesting of all fish species in the harbour, and are advising people and their pets to stay clear of the water and shoreline until further notice.

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