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Prince Rupert Port Authority confirms less than 1,500 litres of oil leaked, no PCBs found

The “vac” (vacuum) trucks skim surface water out of the affected area for safe disposal as part of the clean up effort started over the weekend.  - Prince Rupert Port Authority photo
The “vac” (vacuum) trucks skim surface water out of the affected area for safe disposal as part of the clean up effort started over the weekend.
— image credit: Prince Rupert Port Authority photo

The Prince Rupert Port Authority has wrapped up its emergency response to last week's transformer oil leak at Fairview Bay.

A flow of mineral oil -- used as an insulating agent -- leaked from three decommissioned electrical transformers last week as a result of vandalism on port property. The property was acquired by the Port Authority last year.

Less than 1,500 litres of mineral oil escaped, roughly the volume of three kiddie wading pools.

The fluid was absorbed by the porous ground in the vicinity of the transformer site, with a quantity trickling down to the harbour foreshore.

Initial concerns about the potential presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been abated. Tests have confirmed that levels of PCBs in the leaked fluid are so negligible that they are non-detectable even by laboratory analysis. PCBs are hazardous organic compounds that were added to transformer oil in the mid-twentieth century. Two rounds of laboratory tests showed they are effectively absent from the liquids leaked from the vandalized transformers.

A joint response coordinated by the Port Authority was fully mobilized within 24 hours of the spill's discovery. Using booms and absorbent pads, representatives of Western Canada Marine Response Corporation contained waterborne contaminants. Quantum Murray, a hazardous materials abatement firm, suctioned surface water into tanker trucks for disposal. SNC-Lavalin Environment, an environmental engineering consultancy, took samples and prepared for ongoing monitoring of environmental impacts.

The transformer equipment has been removed from the site so its metal can be recycled. Its superstructure and concrete platform have been demolished to permit a thorough suctioning of residual fluid.

Several tonnes of abandoned fish nets, found below the low tide line, absorbed much of the fluid that reached saltwater. The nets are being removed to reduce hazards to marine life.

Collection of salvageable mineral oil is expected to be complete within days. Ongoing remediation of the site will continue for several weeks.

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