This photo was taken at McLean Mill on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at the end of the rail line after cleanup of the oil spill. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

This photo was taken at McLean Mill on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at the end of the rail line after cleanup of the oil spill. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

McLean Mill oil spill cleanup cost exceeds $1M

City of Port Alberni turns to federal gov’t for help with the national historic site

The City of Port Alberni is reaching out to the federal government for some financial assistance with McLean Mill now that costs associated with an oil spill at the national historic site have reached more than $1 million.

Back in October, a rail tank car was found to be leaking bunker oil in the rail yard at the McLean Mill National Historic Site. The total volume of oil spilled is now estimated to be 6,000 litres.

READ MORE: City of Port Alberni continues cleaning up after spill at McLean Mill

City CAO Tim Pley explained during a council meeting on Monday, Dec. 14 that all the contaminated soil and material has now been recovered and transported to disposal facilities in the Lower Mainland. The excavated area has been backfilled with clean aggregate material. There is “no evidence” that bunker oil entered any stream, Pley said.

Acting director of engineering Ken Watson added that the oil had “seeped into the ground dramatically,” so a larger amount of material than expected had to be removed.

“We were able to contain the material in the area where it spilled without it getting into the adjacent wetlands and creeks,” said Watson. “We had to remove all three of the rail lines that were in proximity. Just that transportation and disposal was more than half the associated costs.”

The city has stated that sometime prior to Oct. 26, a locked valve was opened on a rail tank car. Director of parks, recreation and heritage Willa Thorpe added on Monday that there are “numerous” valves on the tank car that must be “intentionally” opened.

“It wasn’t a case of an environmental situation or an act of God that would have opened those valves,” said Thorpe. “It’s uncertain at this point whether that was a malicious act or an accident.”

The rail tank car, which was located on a rail siding near the eastern property boundary, had been storing fuel for the No. 7 steam engine. The steam engine has not been operating for the past two years, and in that time it has been converted to use diesel oil instead of Bunker C oil.

“There’s nobody that we’re aware of that would have a reason to interact with that tank,” said Pley.

The Port Alberni RCMP confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation into the spill. The spill was reported to the detachment on Nov. 3, but the cause of the incident is “inconclusive” so far, said Cpl. Jacon Racz of the Port Alberni RCMP. He added that the geography of the scene has made the investigation difficult.

“It’s not a densely populated area where you would have a lot of witnesses,” said Racz.

Pley said he doesn’t know the full cost to the city yet, but expects it to be “significant.” So far, cleanup is estimated at $1.25 million. Insurance will only cover up to $100,000, so city staff is looking for other funding sources in the meantime.

On Monday, council expressed frustration with the cost of McLean Mill.

Mayor Sharie Minions pointed out that the city is unable to move forward on other initiatives when McLean Mill keeps coming first.

“I feel like I can’t support one more dollar going into this,” she said. “It never ends. It’s one disaster after another. It seems like everything that can go wrong out there goes wrong. It’s all of the unexpected costs, the unanticipated costs, the unbudgeted costs that are going to bankrupt us with this mill.”

Councillor Cindy Solda added that there is still more cleanup to be done.

“We have some ambitious things on our strategic plan, and it’s going to take a lot of money,” said Solda. “And we’re pumping a lot of money into the McLean Mill, just fixing up things.”

Councillor Ron Corbeil proposed writing to Steven Guilbeault, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, to try and get some assistance from senior levels of government.

“[McLean Mill is] costing this community hundreds of thousands of dollars and, quite frankly, I’m really getting quite tired of it,” he said. “This community is not big enough to afford luxuries like this.”

Council agreed on Monday to submit a letter to the federal government, asking for financial assistance.

READ MORE: ALC denies City of Port Alberni’s application for McLean Mill

Council also agreed to submit an application to remove the historic site from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). It will cost just under $10,000 to prepare an application.



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

McLean MillPORT ALBERNI

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

Just Posted

Friends have identified the man killed in Friday’s shooting in Metchosin as Shane Wilson. (Shane Wilson/Facebook)
West Shore RCMP continue to investigate shooting death in Metchosin

Man killed on Sooke Road Friday night identified by friends

Fire Chief Darren Hughes, right, pulls the old Firemans Park sign off ahead of the parks name change. The new sign for Firefighters Park is coming. (Oak Bay Fire Department Twitter)
Oak Bay changes the name of Fireman’s Park

New sign for Firefighter’s Park on the way

The WHL’s Victoria Royals will compete in a 24-game season starting March 26, <strong></strong>based out of a Kamloops and Kelowna B.C. division bubble (Kevin Light/Courtesy Victoria Royals)
‘Important to cherish every moment’: Victoria Royals not taking bubble season for granted

The Victoria WHL team’s coach and GM calls the season a ‘privilege,’ expects fierce rivalries

The Victoria Fire Department was able to contain a fire to one room after a bed placed directly against a heater ignited. (Black Press Media file photo)
Early morning Victoria balcony fire causes $20,000 in damages

Victoria Fire Department said nobody was injured in the fire on View Street

Postmark Group, an Edmonton-based development firm, bought two properties at 6641 and 6643 Sooke Rd. last year, and is reaching out to the community and local groups for feedback before they begin planning the designs for the development. (Photo contributed/Postmark Group)
Waterfront village development eyed for Sooke

Postmark Group development firm bought two properties at 6641 and 6643 Sooke Rd. last year

Const. Nancy Saggar, who has 11 years in policing, offers advice for other women who may pursue both policing and family. (Black Press Media file photo)
Pregnancy prompts sage advice from RCMP officer for women thinking about policing

West Shore constable with 11 years experience heads off on maternity leave

(BC SPCA)
Is it safe to give your dog some peanut butter? Not always, BC SPCA warns

Some commercial peanut butter ingredients can be harmful to dogs

Anyone with information is asked to call Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or contact Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-8477 or submitting a tip online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.
21-year-old motorbike rider dies after crash with ATV on Nanaimo back road

Incident happened Sunday afternoon near Boomerang Lake

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Most Read