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Diesel spill through White Rock streets and into bay 'looked worse than it was'

A city worker pumps out catch basins along Fir Street between Royal and Columbia avenues Tuesday morning as part of efforts to clean up a diesel spill that reached Semiahmoo Bay. - Tracy Holmes
A city worker pumps out catch basins along Fir Street between Royal and Columbia avenues Tuesday morning as part of efforts to clean up a diesel spill that reached Semiahmoo Bay.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes

Fuel leaking from a City of White Rock truck caused a "rainbow trail" along a number of streets and into Semiahmoo Bay Tuesday morning, raising concern of area residents.

But despite appearances, fire Chief Phil Lemire said the incident is not one for alarm.

"It looks significantly worse than it was," Lemire said.

According to Lemire, the spill was the result of a fuel cap left off of a city recycling truck, causing diesel to leak as the driver progressed along his route.

Lemire said the truck covered "a couple kilometres of road" in the hour before the leak was noticed at 9:15 a.m. The quantity of fuel lost was less than 20 litres, he said.

One witness who contacted Peace Arch News described seeing a stream of fuel running down Vidal Street. Another, Mike Kaburda, said the fuel "stained (Victoria Avenue) all the way down."

Lemire said crews applied sand and Absorb-all – a substance used to soak up hydrocarbons – to roads slick with the diesel, including Fir Street. They also checked and cleaned area catch basins, and – after a report of a fuel slick near the pier – set up booms around storm outlets into the bay.

"With the heavy rains we had, it washed it into the storm drains and washed some of it into the bay around the pier, sort of from Elm Street to the pier area," Lemire said.

"Because of the properties of diesel, it did cover a fairly wide area, but it was very little product."

The booms were picked up by 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Lemire said the provincial environment ministry was contacted but "they considered it to be a minor event as well."

"The visual impact was there because it spreads. A couple of tide flushes and you won't even notice it's there," he said.

Kaburda said in reporting the spill, a city official told him there was little they could do to prevent residual oil from reaching the beach.

"If we don't have that equipment… can you imagine if a whole tank truck spills on a White Rock street?"

But Lemire said a larger spill would have initiated a bigger response, including from the province.

 

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