Bella Bella diesel spill response ‘a joke’, say critics

Click to play video: 'Heiltsuk First Nation Chief questions diesel spill response after booms fail in adverse weather' Heiltsuk First Nation Chief questions diesel spill response after booms fail in adverse weather
WATCH ABOVE: Crews that have been trying to contain a fuel spill on BC's central coast suffered a major setback Saturday. A tug boat ran aground and sank near Bella Bella ten days ago. Now the booms placed around that boat have been hit by a storm. Nadia Stewart reports – Oct 22, 2016

A major setback for crews trying to contain a fuel spills on B.C.’s central coast: one of the booms around the partially submerged vessel has broken.

The vessel is the Nathan E. Stewart tug boat, which ran aground near Bella Bella on Oct.13. An unknown amount of fuel leaked from the vessel into the Seaforth Channel and the Canadian Coast Guard and others have been working to contain the spill by placing booms around the vessel.

However, a storm on Friday caused significant damage to a secondary boom after it became stranded on the rocks. According to the latest update from the Incident Unified Command, “crews are unable to approach the secondary boom until weather subsides and will re-connect the boom as soon as weather permits.”

Heiltsuk First Nation Chief Marilyn Slett describes this latest development as their worst fear.

“Without those booms in place, without the proper containment, more of our seabeds, more of our resources are going to be put at risk,” she said.

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With every passing day, Slett says frustration has been mounting within Heiltsuk First Nation. They’re raising concerns over what they’re calling the government’s unimpressive response to this spill.

“There are a lot of players that have been talking for a long time that we have a world class oil response, which never transpired here,” Slett says.

The Coast Guard says it responded as quickly as it could. Provincial and federal agencies as well as industry have been working together to contain the unknown amount of fuel in the water.

Still, critics say the incident underscores their concerns about oil spill response off Canada’s shores. According to Peter McCartney with the Wilderness Committee, it’s particularly important, as a decision about the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline looms.

“We are terrified that the government will replay the same response that we’ve seen again and again every time there’s a spill,” McCartney says. “The spill response is a joke.”

Heiltsuk First Nation is calling for change. Chief says they’re not afraid to take legal action if they have to.

“Our community, after all this is said and done… it’s our community who are going to have to bear the aftermath of this of this spill.”

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