Mayor, premier call oil spill response unacceptable

Robertson denounces delays, Clark says Coast Guard could turn over authority to B.C. if it's not capable

Premier Christy Clark and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson responded Friday to Wednesday's spill of oil from a freighter in Vancouver harbour.

Premier Christy Clark and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson responded Friday to Wednesday's spill of oil from a freighter in Vancouver harbour.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has condemned government agencies’ handling of a spill of suspected bunker fuel oil from a freighter in English Bay that has fouled area beaches.

The Canadian Coast Guard estimates 2,800 litres or about 17 barrels of oil spilled from the grain freighter Marathassa as it was anchored in English Bay.

“The response to what is a relatively small oil spill by historical standards has been totally inadequate to date,” Robertson told reporters Friday.

“If this had been a significant spill this kind of response would have been a catastrophe.”

Robertson questioned why it took six hours after the discovery of the spill around 5 p.m. Wednesday to start deploying containment booms, why it took 13 hours to notify the City of Vancouver, and why as of Friday the exact substance spilled is not yet confirmed.

He reiterated Vancouver’s opposition to past federal decisions to close the Kitsilano Coast Guard base and cut staff at a federal oil spill response centre in Vancouver.

“This really goes back to the lack of leadership from the federal and provincial governments to ensure these efforts are coordinated, that there’s an immediate response to an oil spill in Vancouver’s waters, regardless of the scale of it, and that response is lacking.”

Coast Guard officials estimate 80 per cent of the spilled oil has been recovered, mainly by skimmer vessels from the Western Canada Marine Response Corp.

Robertson said it’s unclear how much of the remainder has sunk to the bottom to pose a long-term environmental hazard.

Premier Christy Clark was also sharply critical of the Coast Guard’s delayed response, noting the local availability of spill response equipment and personnel did not appear to be the issue.

“The problem was they weren’t deployed,” Clark said. “The Coast Guard didn’t make the decision in a timely manner to get them out there.”

She said the situation underscores what the province has long said – that world-class spill response does not yet exist here, not just for a potential future increase in oil tanker shipments but to deal with leaks and spills from other ships already carrying cargo and passengers.

“It is totally unacceptable that we don’t have the spill response that we require here – the federal government needs to step up,” Clark said.

“I hope it’s a wake-up call to push the Coast Guard into action to ensure we’re ready

not just for shipping that may come but for shipping that’s here now.”

She said the federal government has committed to improvements, but “they are not there yet.”

The premier reiterated there will be no new heavy oil pipelines in B.C. without world-class spill response, among other provincial pre-conditions.

It’s unclear whether the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base degraded the response, Clark said, but added the province opposed the federal decision.

Clark said deficiencies of Coast Guard response were also demonstrated in the case of the Russian container ship Simushir, which lost power in rough seas and drifted for hours before being towed away from the coast of Haida Gwaii last October.

If the Coast Guard can’t respond quickly enough, Clark said, it should transfer leadership authority to the province, which has long experience overseeing incident command for forest fires and other emergencies under its jurisdiction.

Port officials have said the oil initially appeared to be an unrecoverable light sheen on the water surface until heavier concentrations were found.

The Marathassa initially denied it was the source but has been found responsible and is expected to be liable for cleanup costs. The new vessel is thought to have malfunctioned on its maiden voyage.

Despite the containment efforts, large slicks extended to shore, where cleanup volunteers were finding tar balls and oiled seaweed. Some oil reached Sandy Cove in West Vancouver.

A multi-agency cleanup operation is expected, with careful work to clean soiled intertidal areas without excessive damage to marine life.

 

– with files from Tom Fletcher

A slick believed to be bunker fuel oil in between freighters in Vancouver harbour. Photo: @Chad_Dey / @News1130Radio on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Seattle Mariners field coordinator Carson Vitale before a game at T-Mobile Park during the 2020 season. Vitale, who grew up in Victoria, has pledged to run 10 miles a day for 2021 and to donate 50 cents per mile to the United Way of King County. (Ben Van Houten/Seattle Mariners)
Mariners coach running 10 miles a day for United Way

Saanich-raised Carson Vitale, Seattle Mariners field coordinator, plans to run 3,650 miles in 2021

Gordon English, construction manager of the Habitat for Humanity project in North Saanich, shows off the current interior of a townhouse part of the affordable housing project. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Families set to move in to affordable housing project in North Saanich by spring

Pending completion of Habitat for Humanity project comes against backdrop of new housing report

A rainbow graces the departure of CCGS John Cabot as it leaves Victoria Jan. 7. (Canadian Coast Guard/Facebook)
Follow a coast guard ship’s trip from Victoria to Halifax, through Panama Canal

Canadian Coast Guard Ship John Cabot left for St. Johns on Jan. 7

Johnathan Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to eight charges including sex-related offences against children and accessing, possessing and making or publishing child pornography. (Courtesy of Saanich Police)
Sentencing date moved for Saanich nanny guilty of child porn charges

Johnathon Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to eight sex offences against children

(Google Maps)
Sophisticated glass-removal crime returns to downtown Victoria

Several businesses on Fort Street targeted overnight, say police

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Most Read