Crews to continue spill clean-up in English Bay, residents advised to avoid beaches

Bunker fuel that washed up on Vancouver's shores following the 2015 spill. Linda Aylesworth, Global News

Crews will be back this morning to clean up an oil spill in English Bay as residents are being told to avoid touching the oily substance that’s now washing up on the shore.

The incident was reported at about 5 p.m. on Wednesday and an emergency response team was called in to deal with the spill.

The City of Vancouver was not notified of the situation until about 6 a.m. by the Coast Guard.

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Five coast guard and marine response crews worked overnight on containing the oil and keeping the marine life safe.

The City of Vancouver is asking people not to touch the oil because it is toxic, and the Park Board is advising that people keep their dogs out of the water. Anyone who comes into contact with the oil is being told to wash their hands with clean water and soap.

Despite the warning, many people were out roaming the beaches throughout the day.

The city says park rangers were dispatched by the Vancouver Park Board to all beaches to help people avoid oil-affected water and wet sand. So far, there is no evidence of the oil reaching Kitsilano or Spanish Banks beaches, according to Vancouver Park Board Chair John Coupar.

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WATCH: Some fuel has washed ashore on some Vancouver beaches

The spill

Transport Canada says a National Aerial Surveillance Program plane is surveying English Bay to determine the extent of the spill.

It is believed 1,400 liters of oil has been recovered and a sample was sent to the lab for analysis.

It is estimated there are around 2,800 liters of oil in the water.

Vancouver Coastal Health is advising residents to stay away from English Bay shore and water, including Sunset, Second, Third and English Bay beaches.

The City of Vancouver’s emergency list on Twitter has the latest information on the spill. If you see any of the fuel wash up on shore, do not touch it. Instead, call the Coast Guard at 1-800-889-8852.

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The city of West Vancouver says they have received word that oil from the spill is heading towards West Vancouver. Staff are activating emergency response and ask the public to stay clear of the beaches at Ambleside and Dundarave until further notice.

They say West Vancouver Fire and Rescue and NSEMO are supporting emergency operations.

There are no anticipated impacts to the North Shore, but a more thorough evaluation of tides and currents is necessary.

WATCH: Aerial view of the spill in English Bay

The response 

City Manager Penny Ballem says it is still unclear how the spill occurred.

Ballem says the federal government is responsible for the cleanup, but the city needs to be integrated into the plan.

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WATCH: Federal government responsible for clean-up“They have the response plan,” says Ballem. “We are here to support and help. We have no responsibility and we don’t have the resources for clean-up.”Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs says “no matter how much care is taken by the industry, accidents can happen” and after an incident like this, it’s important to make sure the emergency response is appropriate and there are no gaps.Coast Guard says the response was “commercial” with contractors being brought in to help.Meanwhile, Port Metro Vancouver says their operations remain unaffected by the spill.Where is the oil coming from? 

Coast Guard has now confirmed the source of the pollutant was MV Marathassa.

A federal marine safety official says the vessel believed to be responsible for the spill was on its maiden voyage.  It was coming into Vancouver to collect grain. It appears there was a malfunction in the vessel, which was brand new and came out of a shipyard in February.

On Thursday afternoon, Coast Guard said the vessel was denying responsibility for the spill.

“We have a vessel that has indicated they are not the source of the oil product,” said head of the Canadian Coast Guard Western Region Roger Girouard Thursday. “But [Wednesday] night, it was quite apparent that we had visually a bull’s eye. The team responded to that area of the bull’s eye.”

Girouard says when the crews boomed the vessel, there was no more emergent oil.

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A dive team was also examining the hull of the vessel Thursday to see what the mechanical source of the product might be.

Coast Guard says about 80 per cent of the product has already been recovered and there is no further product being released into the environment. There is still a thin sheen in the inner habour, but it is thin and not going to have a significant impact on the environment as it evaporates and dissipates, according to Coast Guard.

While the nature of the fuel is still unclear, Coast Guard is treating it as the worst case scenario, which might involve bunker C fuel or crude oil.

Coast Guard updates English Bay oil spill situation. Watch the full press conference here. 

The city says biologists and wildlife experts are also on site to assist in assessing any impacts of the spill on shoreline and wildlife.

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Park Board wildlife technicians earlier today observed four water birds with oiled feathers on the foreshore near Second Beach. The birds went back into the water before they could be assessed.

The Vancouver Aquarium has offered their assistance with the monitoring and evaluation, and is preparing a rapid response team for any fish, seabirds or mammals that might be at risk from the oil spill.

A representative with the Vancouver Aquarium who was collecting samples along a beach this afternoon told Global News they are finding thick oil covering invertebrates, notably barnacles, at the high tide line along the shore.

It is expected that once the tide goes out, the slick will move away from the shoreline and toward the Strait of Georgia.

“Any spill of this nature is met with grave concern by all Vancouver residents, and underscores both the importance of robust oil spill response capacity in our local waters and the need to protect our shores from all such risks in the future,” city Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a statement.


Oil in plants. Rumina Daya | Global News
Oil on hands from plants. Rumina Daya | Global News
Oil on hands from plants. Rumina Daya | Global News
Bunker fuel that washed up on Vancouver's shores following the 2015 spill. Linda Aylesworth, Global News
Linda Aylesworth, Global News
Protesters on the beach near the oil spill. Rumina Daya | Global News

Meanwhile, anti-pipeline protesters were gathering in English Bay asking for answers.

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What do you think about the response to this oil spill? Take our poll:

The city says Vancouver residents who want to help out with the clean-up can sign up to volunteer here.


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