The Nathan E. Stewart tug and barge combo ran aground on the central coast late Wednesday night.

The Nathan E. Stewart tug and barge combo ran aground on the central coast late Wednesday night.

Prince Rupert WCMRC sends response to Bella Bella fuel spill

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation sends approximately 10 workers to fuel spill off Bella Bella

After a tug and barge ran aground at Edge Reef in Seaforth Channel off Bella Bella late Wednesday night, the Prince Rupert base of operations for Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) was called to action.

Kirby Offshore Marine, the owners of the Nathan E. Stewart tug/barge team called WCMRC at 4:30 a.m. Thursday for environmental cleanup of the leaked diesel fuel.

“We have equipment and trained responders at Shearwater [Marina] there, so we deployed those right away and we did deploy some vessels from Prince Rupert,” said Michael Lowry, manager of communications at WCMRC Friday morning.

The Prince Rupert base sent the Eagle Bay, a vessel with 1,500 feet of boom to contain spills, a tug with another boom skiff, a work boat and a barge with three response trailers on it.

“Those all left yesterday morning. They were scheduled to arrive around 6 p.m. yesterday and I’m just waiting for confirmation on what time they did arrive, but they should all be there already,” said Lowry.

The response team from Shearwater deployed boom around the affected area as a light sheen was visible emanating from the now-sunken tug.

“Yesterday was the contain and protect phase and this morning I think they’re just evaluating their strategy right now … We’ll have to do an assessment on what the spill is looking like today and whether it’s suitable for mechanical recovery or not,” said the WCMRC rep, adding that the diesel is a light grade fuel.

Lowry estimates that the team will be there for at least a few days, but there is no current estimate on how long the recovery will take.

“We’ll be keeping an eye on the weather and the impacts of that,” he added.

Approximately six to 10 responders travelled down from Prince Rupert in total.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen commented on the spill Friday, saying that the spill could have been much worse had the barge been full of fuel, and was a “least-worse case scenario.”

“British Columbians are waking up today, imagining if this had been a fully loaded supertanker, and thinking about the devastation it could have done to fishing resources, First Nations communities and our environment. They’re wondering why their Prime Minister hasn’t acted yet on his solemn promise to protect our coast,” Cullen said.Read more on the spill here.