WATCH: Crews are working to clean up 30,000 litres of diesel that spilled into Esquimalt Harbour early Sunday morning after a barge ran aground. April Lawrence has the full story.
It’s a massive operation in Esquimalt Harbour as crews work around the clock to clean up a massive fuel spill.
By Monday afternoon, approximately 75 to 80 per cent of the spilled fuel had been removed from the water in Plumper Bay.
A barge, owned by Vancouver Pile Driving, broke from its bouey during a windstorm early Sunday morning, and ran aground, leaking diesel into the water.
The company estimates about 30,000 litres of diesel were spilled into the marine environment.
A Coast Guard helicopter surveyed the size of the spill from above on Monday — officials say the volume of fuel makes it one of the largest spills on B.C.’s West Coast in years.
“This is definitely pretty significant in terms of volume,” said Michael Lowry with Western Canada Marine Response Corporation.
“One of the bigger ones for sure and we’ve been doing this for about 40 years or so,” he said.
It could have been a far-reaching catastrophe but Department of National Defence crews spotted the barge immediately, and laid down booms before the leak even started.
“It’s through their actions that really limited the potential damage this spill could have caused,” said Kim Stanley with Vancouver Pile Driving.
But the spill will still have significant impacts on the environment — the bay is full of wildlife.
“We’ve identified six birds that have been oiled through the process and we’re taking steps to get those birds looked after and cleaned up,” said Stanley.
While the marine response was well underway Monday, shoreline teams were also taking note of the amount of diesel on the ground, and developing a plan on how to clean it up.
It will either be through absorbent pads, or a bigger operation known as a shoreline flush.
“Using a giant sprinkler system to flush the product back out into the marine environment, where we establish boom and it’s much easier for our skimmers to recover it in that area,” said Lowry.
It’s unknown just how long the clean-up will take, but people are being told to avoid the area until further notice.
“We’ll make sure that the community is totally satisfied that this is returned to a state they’re satisfied with before finishing the operation,” said Lowry.
Vancouver Pile Driving said this is the biggest environmental incident in its 100 year history.
An internal investigation will look into what exactly what went wrong to make sure it never happens again.