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Sunken tug near Bella Bella raised from waters

Lifting of the Nathan E. Stewart tug near Bella Bella
WATCH: After a number of delays caused by rough seas, salvage crews have finally managed to raise the tugboat that sank off the coast of Bella Bella last month. A huge floating crane was brought up from Seattle for the job.

A month after an American-owned tugboat sank near Bella Bella, spilling more than 100,000 litres of diesel fuel into the ocean, the vessel was raised from the sea floor.

On Oct. 13, the Nathan E. Stewart, belonging to Texas-based Kirby Offshore Marine, ran aground on a reef at the entrance to Seaforth Channel north of Athlone Island.

The company says the tug was originally loaded with 237,262 litres of diesel fuel. More than 24,000 litres were removed from the tug before it sank and a further 94,000 litres were pumped from the tug by diving crews in the days after the accident.

Kirby Offshore Marine estimates a total of 107,552 litres of diesel fuel and 2,240 litres of industrial lubricants were released into the environment.

The spill prompted crews to deploy containment booms around the tug and a shellfish harvesting closure was also imposed.

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READ MORE: Full coverage of the Bella Bella spill

In the days after the spill, members of the Heiltsuk First Nation sounded the alarm, saying they were concerned diesel fuel from the sunken tug could have devastating long-term effects on their economy and environment.

Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett called the accident an “environmental disaster,” adding the spill is particularly devastating the clam beds that the community relies on for income. Slett also initially said the response of the industry, federal and provincial governments was “wholly inadequate.”

WATCH: Heiltsuk Nation responds to tug boat removal

Heiltsuk Nation responds to tug boat removal
Heiltsuk Nation responds to tug boat removal

The First Nation’s concerns prompted a visit from Transport Minister Marc Garneau last week, as well as two other federal ministers.

READ MORE: Transport minister Marc Garneau visits B.C. fuel spill site

On Sunday, the vessel was secured with a 10-ton anchor in preparation for the raising, which is expected to start at 11 a.m. PT today and take six hours to complete.

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The forecast in the area is calling for gale-force winds this morning.

Slett and other members of the Heiltsuk First Nation say they will be looking on as the tug will be lifted.

“Removing [it] means that it can’t cause any further diesel or oil contamination in our waters, and is the first step in what we know will be a lengthy cleanup and recovery process,” said Slett in a release Monday morning. “We hope that today goes smoothly.”

Environmental sampling of sediment, water and vegetation around the site of the accident continues, but no results have been released yet. Both Transport Canada and the Heiltsuk First Nation have launched investigations into the accident.

WATCH: Critics call Bella Bella diesel spill response ‘a joke’

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