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Oil spill response was lacking: Vancouver Mayor

Courtesy: Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Vancouver mayor is calling the response to the oil spill in English Bay on Thursday inadequate.

A bulk carrier on its maiden voyage to Vancouver to collect grain is alleged to have leaked the substance, the nature of which is still unknown.

The incident was reported at about 5 p.m. on Wednesday, but the City of Vancouver was not notified of the situation until about 13 hours after the fact.

Booms had to be deployed around the vessel, but some of the oil residue started washing up on local beaches, prompting a warning from the city to not touch the oil because it is toxic. The Park Board was also advising that people stay out of the water and keep their dogs out as well.

Robertson says the spill was relatively small by historical standards, but the response was lackluster.

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WATCH: Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson addresses the oil spill

He says the city has questions about what happened, why it took six hours to deploy the booms, why it took 13 hours to notify the city of Vancouver and why 42 hours later, they still don’t know what the toxic substance is.

“The response was inadequate – too slow, not enough information and citizens of Vancouver are frustrated,” says the mayor.

He says the city is struggling to find answers about what the impact on the environment will be and how much of the substance had sunk to the bottom of the ocean, potentially posing a long-term hazard.

“These are the tough questions that need to be asked of the officials in Ottawa and Victoria,” says Robertson. “It goes back to the lack of leadership from the federal and provincial government to make sure that these efforts are coordinated.”

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B.C. Premier Christy Clark says she hears Robertson’s frustration, but puts the blame squarely on the Coast Guard.

“I am very, very disappointed that the city of Vancouver was not notified until 12 hours after it happened. Equally even more disappointed that it took them six hours to get booms in place,” says Clark.

But the premier says they rely on the Coast Guard to get information right.

“It is not a problem, as far as we can tell, the shortage of resources to look after it,” says Clark. “It is a shortage of perhaps good judgement.”

Clark says they will have to come up with a better way of handling a crisis like this.

“And if that means that in the future, the Coast Guard is relieved of their lead on this and starts taking direction from the province, then perhaps that’s a better way to do this,” adds the premier.

WATCH: B.C. Premier Christy Clark talks about Gregor Robertson’s comments and the oil spill response

Meanwhile, the Vancouver mayor says it’s been “heart-wrenching” to not be able to start a clean-up on the city’s beaches affected by the spill.

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He says thousands of people in Vancouver are calling City Hall to ask how they can help.

“There is a remarkable outpouring of support and concern that we need to channel into the clean-up,” adds Robertson.

People who want to help out with the clean-up are asked to call 3-1-1 to register their interest or sign up online.