A tug hauling a fuel barge went aground on the rocky Pacific coast near Bella Bella on Thursday night. The Nathan E. Stewart ran up on a reef at 1 am and started leaking diesel fuel. At this time, Saturday, it is unknown how much diesel has leaked into the water. When it left Alaska enroute to Vancouver, the tug was carrying 50 000 gallons of fuel. The vessel is double-hulled. This newer design is supposed to save the environment by confining the petroleum in the event of beaching.
This area is near the Great Bear Rainforest and home to many rare marine and shore animals.
The area is environmentally pristine. It is part of a voluntary tanker exclusion zone, but small tankers and tanker barges can use the passage ways. The tug also has a waiver to travel in Canadian waters on its way to the US without carrying a pilot.
The local First Nation has profitable Manila clam beds in the area. They also depend on the fishery for food. They point out that further up the coast where the BC Government ferry sunk ten years ago continues to taint the fishery there.
In the cold northern waters, petroleum products break down very slowly. The Exxon Valdes sunk twenty-seven years ago and the pollution continues to taint the fishery.
The Western Canada Marine Response Corp. was on the scene within 24 hours and laid floating booms to try to contain the diesel fuel. Divers were dispatched to try to patch the holes in the tug. A spokesman for the corporation was quoted as opining that weather would likely not affect the cleanup.
The west coast of BC is currently experiencing the third in a series of Pacific storms. Each one has brought more rain and increasingly intensive winds. This time the inside passage north of Vancouver Island has been spared. But we can count on that to always happen.
Environmentalists in BC may sometimes seem unreasonable in opposing pipelines that bring oil to the coast to fill tankers bound for foreign countries. The KinderMorgan pipeline has just been granted permission to increase capacity in spite of vociferous opposition. The Northern Gateway pipeline proposal is currently on hold. Yet incidents like the grounding of the Texas owned pusher tug on our coast serves to remind everyone how fragile and dangerous the coastline is.
To belabour the point, this accident appears to be the result of human error, the sinking of the Queen of the North was human error and the Exxon Valdes was as well.
Below is a copy of a FB entry from a Heiltsuk First Nation resident who was posting first hand about this:
The Vancouver Sun
Blogger, gardener, farmer. Working toward food security and a 30 foot
diet. Addicted to reading. Love this planet, especially my little corner
on Vancouver Island, Canada