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Drift cards show potential oil spill impact, groups say

Map of recovered drift cards from the Salish Sea Drift Card Study. - Georgia Strait Alliance
Map of recovered drift cards from the Salish Sea Drift Card Study.
— image credit: Georgia Strait Alliance

Two environmental groups that dropped wooden drift cards to model the flow of oil from a spill in Vancouver Harbour say the initial results demonstrate how quickly local beaches could be fouled.

Raincoast Conservation and the Georgia Strait Alliance dropped 1,644 cards six weeks ago at nine locations and asked people who found them to report the locations and times.

Cards dropped off Point Grey and at the Second Narrows washed ashore very quickly, the groups say, suggesting oil spilled in the harbour could reach Vancouver and West Vancouver beaches within 24 to 48 hours and continue to wash up there for weeks.

Those cards eventually circulated to the San Juan Islands, the Sunshine Coast and other locations, sometimes travelling 200 to 300 kilometres.

The preliminary report of the Salish Sea Drift Card Study says it's likely oil spilled at any of the test sites would reach much of the south coast of Vancouver Island from Sidney to Tofino, the San Juans, the southern Gulf Islands and the north coast of Washington's Olympic Peninsula.

Project coordinator Andy Rosenberger said that's a broader spread than Kinder Morgan estimates as a result of a spill of an oil tanker in the area filed in its application to twin its Trans Mountain pipeline.

About 28 per cent of the dropped cards have been recovered so far.

The map is updated as more are found and can be viewed at salishseaspillmap.org.

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