Why did the Malahat closure last so long after the Goldstream crash?

Why did the Malahat closure last so long after the Goldstream crash?

WATCH: The disruptive 14-hour Malahat closure on Thursday has people asking why it took so long to clean up the Goldstream crash scene. Tess van Straaten takes a look.

Traffic finally started moving again early Friday morning on the Trans-Canada Highway after a fuel tanker truck and a courier van collided, leading to a staggering 14-hour closure.

“I think the closure was longer than anyone ever expected or hoped for,” says Chris Foord of the Capital Regional District Traffic Safety Commission. “I think environmentally, we dodged a bullet. I think practically, it was an awfully long time.”

Mainroad Contracting was responsible for handling the chaos that ensued, as thousands of stranded drivers struggled to find another way in or out of Victoria.

“It was very hectic and we were scrambling!” says Mainroad operations manager Leon Pohmer. “We basically mobilized in excess of over 60 people and trucks and had water and refreshments and porta potties and everything else moved out to the sites.”

Environmental and safety concerns were the main reasons for such a long closure. The crash happened just metres from the Goldstream River and officials were worried the fuel leak could damage these salmon spawning grounds.

“One of the portholes on top of the vessel was leaking,” says John Kervel, an environmental emergency response officer with the B.C. Ministry of the Environment. “Langford Fire did a phenomenal job capping it and mitigating the ongoing release of home-heating fuel.”

After the RCMP investigation, which took priority over the environmental emergency response, the tricky and dangerous job of trying to drain all of the home-heating fuel and gasoline from the Fast Fuels tanker then began.

“What they had to do was bring in airbags and stabilize the tanker, drill holes and get the fuel safely out of it,” explains Foord.

Crews, in full safety gear, had to use specialized, non-sparking equipment to drill two-inch holes in each of the tanker’s five compartments and then pump it into a waiting tanker.

“One of the main reasons we didn’t open up the highway to alternating traffic is there is always the threat of catastrophic failure,” says Kervel. “Safety is paramount, the safety of the responders is paramount, and ensuring we’re doing it in a manner that will not create a secondary emergency during the response.”

Officials believe they were able to contain the spill to the side of the road, thanks in part to decaying vegetation that soaked up fuel and helped with the contamination clean up.

Samples were taken and there will be ongoing monitoring to make sure fuel didn’t seep into the river or nearby habitat.

Environment ministry officials are also checking the tanker manifest against how much fuel was recovered to make sure the spill wasn’t more serious.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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