Nearly 200 people take part in oil spill exercise off Esquimalt lagoon

Nearly 200 people take part in oil spill exercise off Esquimalt lagoon

Nearly 200 people took part in an oil spill exercise near Esquimalt Lagoon Wednesday as part of mandatory training.

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation brought in 12 vessels from across Vancouver Island to take part in a simulated 2,500-tonne spill.

The training occurs every two years, according to the organization’s communications manager Michael Lowry.

“We have vessels here from Port Alberni, from Beecher Bay, from Sidney, and from over in Vancouver,” said Lowry in an interview with CHEK News.

On the waters were 70 crew members supported by more than 100 people at a mock operations centre at the Coast Victoria.

Representatives from more than 30 groups were involved in the training exercise, including from several First Nations and federal and regional agencies.

A Seaspan barge was used as the source of the oil spill, also called the casualty. Lowry says the first step in a real-life spill is to contain the source.

“So basically the vessel that had an accident and is leaking oil, we wanna wrap boom around that vessel as a first priority,” said Lowry.

Responders’ second priority is protecting sensitive areas along the shoreline, such as eelgrass beds or clam middens. Afterwards, the cleanup begins.

Oil skimmers are launched into the waters, and specialized vessels, such as the Strait Sentinel, can deploy boom, transport equipment, and store oil onboard. Lowry says there are only three of these ships worldwide, and WCMRC owns all of them.

“Once the oil is collected, it can be taken to a treatment facility,” said Lowry.

“There’s one here on Vancouver Island and one on the lower mainland. That oil can be recycled if there’s not much water in it. It can turn into asphalt, for example.”

Oil spill cleanups can take up to 10 days, but for those in operation centres, it could take weeks due to post-cleanup checkups, according to the organization.

Lowry says they average around 20 calls per year.

Oli HerreraOli Herrera

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