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Cleanup underway after barge runs aground in Esquimalt Harbour on Vancouver Island

Cleanup crews are on scene this morning after a barge carrying up to 30,000 litres of diesel ran aground in Plumper Bay in Esquimalt Harbour in Sunday’s early-morning windstorm.

“Things are really looking good,” said Kim Stanley, manager of health, safety and environment at Vancouver Pile Driving.

Vancouver Pile Driving said this morning it has taken command of the spill-response operation in Esquimalt Harbour.

The company said that due to high winds, an empty spud barge “containing between 20,000 to 30,000 litres of diesel broke free of its mooring and was blown aground.”

Spokesperson Leanne Shaw credited the quick actions of the harbour master for putting a boom in place to capture the leaking diesel as soon as the incident was discovered.

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation is heading up the marine response and cleanup. Spokesman Michael Lowry said the company was called at 11 a.m. Sunday and arrived on scene at 1 p.m. to put up a secondary containment boom.

“So far we’ve recovered 16,000 litres of product,” Lowry said. Some of that was from the fuel tanks that had not yet escaped.

Crews worked all day Sunday and through the night until this morning, Lowry said.

“Skimming operations will continue today,” he added. “Diesel is not the worst situation because it’s a lighter fuel and because it does evaporate; definitely it’s a manageable spill.”

Absorbent pads have been placed on the shoreline, Lowry said. He could not estimate what if any damage has been done to marine life and the local environment.

Neither Western Canada Marine Response nor Vancouver Pile Driving could say Monday morning how much longer the cleanup is expected to take.

That is a decision that will be made between all the stakeholders, including the B.C. Ministry of Environment, monitoring the situation for the province, the Canadian Coast Guard, the federal monitoring body, members of the Esquimalt Nation and more.

Quantum Murray will be assisting with the shoreline cleanup, said the company. As well, Shoreline Clean-up Assessment Technique (SCAT) teams will be deployed to survey oiled shoreline areas, assess the impact and recommend appropriate cleanup tactics, the company said.

“The public should avoid contact with water and shoreline areas in and around Esquimalt Harbour while a proper assessment is being conducted,” Stanley said.

“We also advise the public to avoid contact with oiled wildlife, as professional responders will be handling the cleanup,” he said.

Vancouver Pile Driving has been in existence for about 100 years and has never had an incident like this, Shaw said. She could not estimate the cost of the cleanup.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

© Copyright Times Colonist

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