Diesel spill follows barge sinking near Port Mellon in Howe Sound

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A barge sank and a fuel tank on board leaked diesel on Wednesday in a spill that was later contained in Howe Sound.

A diesel spill that happened in the waters off of Port Mellon in Howe Sound on Wednesday has been contained for the most part, according to the company charged with the cleanup.

The spill took place after reports that a barge sunk close to Port Mellon, according to the Canadian Coast Guard.

Crews with Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) were on the scene Wednesday with three vessels and six staffers so they could carry out some “skimming operations,” said WCMRC spokesman Michael Lowry.

The crews returned to the scene on Thursday morning with the same contingent of vessels and crew.

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The source of the spill turned out to be a fuel tank that was on board the barge, the Canadian Coast Guard told Global News.

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The tank’s contents have been exhausted and “no further upwelling has been observed,” the Coast Guard added.

The size of the spill isn’t clear — Lowry said there was an unconfirmed figure suggesting it was about 120 litres, which is small, according to him.

“We get called out to spills of this nature roughly 20 times a year, so this is a relatively small spill,” he told Global News.

A boom has been placed around the spill and “a surface sheen of diesel has been recovered,” the Coast Guard said.

For now, the Coast Guard is trying to contact the owner of the barge to let them know their liability for any costs incurred in connection with the cleanup.

Nevertheless, the spill happened in the territory of the Squamish Nation — and they were “deeply disappointed” that it took place.

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“When spills happen, they can devastate our coastline,” said a statement from Squamish Nation spokesperson Dustin Rivers.

“Fuel spills directly impact our economy, culture and community who have lived off our homelands for thousands of years.”

WCMRC is still determining whether crews will need to tackle the spill again on Friday.