Nearly a year and a half after 42,700 litres of fuel flowed into Goldstream River after a Columbia Fuels truck crash, conditions are improving in the local environment.
The April 16, 2011 crash killed thousands of juvenile chum and coho that had only recently been released into the river. Driver James Allan Charles Smith pleaded guilty to two charges related to the crash.
Ministry of Environment manager of the environmental emergency program Graham Knox said cleanup efforts from the spill continue, but generally conditions in the overall area are positive.
“Things are looking pretty good,” said Knox. “No more exceedances that we’ve seen at all for quite some time in the water.”
Fuel is no longer detected in the water but there is still fuel trapped in fractured bedrock underneath the Trans-Canada Highway where the road heads north towards Finlayson Arm Road.
“That (continues) to be worked on to reduce those contaminant levels,” Knox said. “There’s no evidence that that’s getting into the river and if it is, none of the monitoring has shown exceedences of the aquatic water quality numbers.”
A soil vapour extraction system will continue to be deployed in the area into 2013, Knox said, until the vapour level under the roadway decreases to a certain level.
Columbia Fuels’ parent company is footing the bill for the work and says it has spent about $2 million so far on restoration. It is responsible for paying until contaminant levels in the area reach a certain low, or pay for infrastructure that ensures contamination left over will not cause future environmental concerns.
Knox said given the difficulty of removing the fuel from under the road, it is likely Columbia Fuels will have to go with the second option.
The fuel company is also working with the province and stakeholders, such as local fisheries, on potential restoration projects to offset the damage the fuel cost. A Goldstream roundtable is being formed to decide on what projects to move forward with.
Knox said some likely projects are rebuilding an existing side channel into the stream that is blocked (through no fault of Columbia Fuels), providing money to the hatcheries to replace fish lost in the spill and carrying out a hydrological and fish habitat assessment.