Saanich workers dispatched to oil spill in Colquitz River

Saanich workers dispatched to oil spill in Colquitz River
Booms are floating, physical barriers to oil, made of plastic, metal, or other materials, which slow the spread of oil and keep it contained.

An oil spill of an estimated 600 litres leaked out of a Saanich residents above ground storage tank, with some spilling into the Colquitz River, Friday.

The District of Saanich responded to a call about a strong fuel smell around 4:30 p.m. in the area of Hyacinth Park.

Upon their arrival workers from the municipality spotted contaminants in the Colquitz River and deployed protective booms to contain the spill. Investigators managed to trace the spill back to a nearby property and found their above ground tank had a hole in the bottom.

According to a report from the district, an estimated 600 litres spilled from the tank.

“The District contacted the Provincial Emergency Program and continue to monitor the booms for clean-up,” wrote Harley Machielse, the Director of Engineering for Saanich. “The majority of the fuel was cleaned up last night, but some residual hydrocarbons could be seen at control points this morning. Staff will leave the booms in place over the weekend and will use pads to remove the remaining hydrocarbons observed.

Saanich Stormwater crews could be spotted donning their waders and life jackets as they worked to the spill below the Marigold Road bridge.

The workers were on scene until midnight, tracking the spill and working to stop the contaminants from flowing down stream.

“No sheen seen downstream. I followed the river into the estuary, nothing seen or smelled at the fish fence,” wrote Dorothy Chambers, a local environmentalist and coordinator at Salmon in the district, in an email to CHEK.

According to the Distrcit of Saanich’s website, about 10 per cent of reported neighbourhood oil spills and pollution come from home heating fuel tanks. “While the number of spills is low, the cost is high. It’s common for homeowners to receive a cleanup bill in the tens of thousands of dollars. Most house insurance policies don’t cover spills,” reads their website.

Over time, the metal tanks used to store furnace fuels corrode and weaken. When this happens, it can be hard to spot and fuel spills can go unnoticed for long periods of time, contaminating their immediate surroundings. The District of Saanich website lists several tips to keep in mind to help prevent these kinds of spills from happening.

  • Be alert to any oil smells near the tank.
  • Watch your oil bills for unexplained or sudden increases in the amount of oil you’ve been using.
  • Keep the tank full over the summer to reduce water condensation inside.
  • When replacing a tank, don’t re-use the old oil. Water, sludge, and bacteria in old oil can cause corrosion and leaks in a new tank.
  • Have your furnace serviced annually and replace the oil filter.
  • Make sure your tank complies with your insurance requirements.
  • If tank is decommissioned make sure all piping is removed or purged and capped.

If you do encounter an oil spill, contact the Emergency Management BC Coordination Centre at 1-800-663-3456.

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