Spill response team members try to clean up the diesel fuel that leaked into waters off of Bella Bella in October. Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen and North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice said equipment

Cullen, Rice slam spill response

Representatives say equipment, training and proper response is sorely lacking in B.C.’s central coast

Equipment, training and proper response is sorely lacking in B.C.’s central coast and the federal government hasn’t done enough to ensure its safety.

That’s the message from Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen concerning the grounding of the Nathan E. Stewart tug and barge, which leaked thousands of litres of diesel fuel into the water when it sank off the coast of Bella Bella.

“Equipment and training and a real safety plan for the entire coastal region has been promised for years. [B.C. Premier] Christy Clark, [Former Prime Minister] Stephen Harper and [Prime Minister] Justin Trudeau all talk about what a world class response we have, yet when you see an incident like this, you realize those words are empty,” said Cullen.

After response vessels came from Western Canadian Marine Response Corporation’s (WCMRC) base in Shearwater, and limited Heiltsuk response action from Bella Bella, it was another 24 hours before Prince Rupert’s response team arrived from the North Coast with additional resources.

Trudeau has promised the reopening of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station in Vancouver, but it’s still too far away for Cullen who has derived the timing of the immediate response action.

“Mr. Trudeau was in Vancouver [in October] and said ‘We opened the Coast Guard base back up in Vancouver and everything’s better’, not realizing and not having a map at hand to know that’s hundreds and hundreds of kilometres away,” said the MP.

WCMRC south coast area supervisor Trevor Davis told Black Press that while there are limited resources along the central coast, training is being prepared for Heiltsuk members who have been working on the spill. Whether it’s enough to properly address a similar incident in the future is still up in the air. Davis added that there are currently trained responders in Shearwater, but not in    Bella Bella.

“That’s the debate for the whole B.C. coast: can you have enough equipment? We are growing, the industry is changing and we can certainly do with more equipment and I would support that,” he said.

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould visited the site on Oct. 30 and spoke with Heiltsuk leaders and listened to the community’s concerns about what is needed in terms of training, equipment and response quality in the area.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice also took part in the spill response, and was over in Bella Bella for approximately a week. The MLA said that more needs to be done to look after the non-urban parts of the west coast, just as much as the urban parts.

“There was, and is no cache of boom and oil spill cleanup equipment in the central coast and clearly this sinking and subsequent spill demonstrates it is greatly needed. It is not just the populated areas of our province that need response capacity. Two weeks prior to this incident the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were in Bella Bella at the invite of the Premier, recognizing the significance and importance of the Great Bear Rainforest. If this part of British Columbia is so important to Christy Clark why does she leave it so vulnerable to risks like oil spills?” Rice said.

“Once the spill occurs, there is little that can be done. I witnessed this first-hand. Diesel may evaporate but it doesn’t do so quickly. I arrived seven days after the spill and the stench of fumes was so thick in the air. The sheen was everywhere and going right past the booms and they were essentially useless. The skimmers were hardly picking up any product and considering the amount floating around the water today three weeks after the spill, it is blatantly obvious there is nothing world-class about oil spill response in B.C.,” she continued, adding that tug-owner Kirby officials were shocked at how ill-equipped and ill-trained the area’s response team was.

“At the very least we need response capacity – boats and equipment situated in the central coast. We need central coast residents to be trained in order to deal with an incident such as this. I truly believe that with the Heiltsuk First Nation’s experience and local knowledge they have a better idea of what’s needed. Considering it will be some time until we see the Transport Canada investigation results, there are unanswered questions around pilotage and shipping regulations.”

Cullen, Rice and the rest of Canada await word from Prime Minister Trudeau about action on his election promise of an oil tanker ban along the North Coast, but until then, Cullen said he’s unsatisfied with the current conditions, let alone ramped up activity with any industry looking to establish a footprint on the coast.

“It’s just not enough for the feds to even contemplate these pipelines and adding even more risk to our coast when they haven’t even taken care of the risks that exist today,” Cullen said.

– With files from Caitlin Thompson

Electoral reform committee to recommend new system

Cullen and the rest of the electoral reform committee are expected to present their recommendation of Canada’s new voting system to the House of Commons in the following days. Cullen and the committee spoke to experts and average Canadians and took feedback from across the country over the summer and into the fall to come up with their decision.

“It’s historic. We’ve been talking about this issue in parliament for almost 100 years and this is the first time we’ve come this far along in the process. I’m pretty excited,” he said.

The government will now need to decide how to implement the system and how to ask Canadians to legitimize the new system, whether it be referendum, party agreement or other process.

 

Just Posted

Prince Rupert minor hockey is on the brink

The Prince Rupert Minor Hockey Association is in dire need of referees

Moving to the beat of his own drum

Garry Wells has beat drums with his village for more than 30 years

In Our Opinion: Go get ‘em Nathan

They need to change the name of the capital of Canada. Anyone… Continue reading

Prince Rupert students learn to chase away anxiety

Author Amanda Stern presented at Prince Rupert Middle School on Feb. 22

Northern residents rejoice at increased BC Ferries sailings

B.C. government announced that service will be restored to 2014 levels

Ice skating on the North Coast, a rare treat

Seawolves hockey players bring their gear to Oliver Lake this week to play on the outdoor rink

Pink Shirt Day a reminder to ‘T.H.I.N.K.’ before posting on social media

‘Be Kind’ message on shirts sold for anti-bullying activities of Wednesday, Feb. 27

A ‘warm embrace’ for grieving parents at funeral of seven young fire victims

Mourners offered love and support to Kawthar Barho, mother of seven children

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

UPDATE: Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Legislation to protect B.C. farmland comes into effect

Regulations enhance food security, encourage long-term farming

Have you heard the legend of Shuswaggi, the Shuswap Lake monster?

Witness accounts as old as 1904, and as recent as 2018, place a creature in the lake’s depths

UPDATE: B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

B.C.-based ‘Team Tardi’ brings home gold in junior curling worlds

In a 9-4 victory over Switzerland, a Langley-based curling team earned its 2nd straight world title

Most Read