This photo was taken at McLean Mill on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at the end of the rail line after cleanup of the oil spill. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

This photo was taken at McLean Mill on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at the end of the rail line after cleanup of the oil spill. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

McLean Mill oil spill cleanup cost exceeds $1M

City of Port Alberni turns to federal gov’t for help with the national historic site

The City of Port Alberni is reaching out to the federal government for some financial assistance with McLean Mill now that costs associated with an oil spill at the national historic site have reached more than $1 million.

Back in October, a rail tank car was found to be leaking bunker oil in the rail yard at the McLean Mill National Historic Site. The total volume of oil spilled is now estimated to be 6,000 litres.

READ MORE: City of Port Alberni continues cleaning up after spill at McLean Mill

City CAO Tim Pley explained during a council meeting on Monday, Dec. 14 that all the contaminated soil and material has now been recovered and transported to disposal facilities in the Lower Mainland. The excavated area has been backfilled with clean aggregate material. There is “no evidence” that bunker oil entered any stream, Pley said.

Acting director of engineering Ken Watson added that the oil had “seeped into the ground dramatically,” so a larger amount of material than expected had to be removed.

“We were able to contain the material in the area where it spilled without it getting into the adjacent wetlands and creeks,” said Watson. “We had to remove all three of the rail lines that were in proximity. Just that transportation and disposal was more than half the associated costs.”

The city has stated that sometime prior to Oct. 26, a locked valve was opened on a rail tank car. Director of parks, recreation and heritage Willa Thorpe added on Monday that there are “numerous” valves on the tank car that must be “intentionally” opened.

“It wasn’t a case of an environmental situation or an act of God that would have opened those valves,” said Thorpe. “It’s uncertain at this point whether that was a malicious act or an accident.”

The rail tank car, which was located on a rail siding near the eastern property boundary, had been storing fuel for the No. 7 steam engine. The steam engine has not been operating for the past two years, and in that time it has been converted to use diesel oil instead of Bunker C oil.

“There’s nobody that we’re aware of that would have a reason to interact with that tank,” said Pley.

The Port Alberni RCMP confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation into the spill. The spill was reported to the detachment on Nov. 3, but the cause of the incident is “inconclusive” so far, said Cpl. Jacon Racz of the Port Alberni RCMP. He added that the geography of the scene has made the investigation difficult.

“It’s not a densely populated area where you would have a lot of witnesses,” said Racz.

Pley said he doesn’t know the full cost to the city yet, but expects it to be “significant.” So far, cleanup is estimated at $1.25 million. Insurance will only cover up to $100,000, so city staff is looking for other funding sources in the meantime.

On Monday, council expressed frustration with the cost of McLean Mill.

Mayor Sharie Minions pointed out that the city is unable to move forward on other initiatives when McLean Mill keeps coming first.

“I feel like I can’t support one more dollar going into this,” she said. “It never ends. It’s one disaster after another. It seems like everything that can go wrong out there goes wrong. It’s all of the unexpected costs, the unanticipated costs, the unbudgeted costs that are going to bankrupt us with this mill.”

Councillor Cindy Solda added that there is still more cleanup to be done.

“We have some ambitious things on our strategic plan, and it’s going to take a lot of money,” said Solda. “And we’re pumping a lot of money into the McLean Mill, just fixing up things.”

Councillor Ron Corbeil proposed writing to Steven Guilbeault, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, to try and get some assistance from senior levels of government.

“[McLean Mill is] costing this community hundreds of thousands of dollars and, quite frankly, I’m really getting quite tired of it,” he said. “This community is not big enough to afford luxuries like this.”

Council agreed on Monday to submit a letter to the federal government, asking for financial assistance.

READ MORE: ALC denies City of Port Alberni’s application for McLean Mill

Council also agreed to submit an application to remove the historic site from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). It will cost just under $10,000 to prepare an application.



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

McLean MillPORT ALBERNI

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Shore RCMP is looking for a suspect and their minivan, which crashed into a parked vehicle and home along the 200-block of Island Highway in View Royal on Jan. 18. (Black Press Media file photo)
Driver crashes into parked car and home in View Royal, speeds away: RCMP

Incident took place near 200-block of Island Highway Monday night

December and January, so far, have seen their share of rain. (Black Press Media file photo)
Potential for snow in Greater Victoria after unusually wet December, January

Winter is on the way, says Environment and Climate Change Canada

Firefighters respond to a fire on Heatherly Road in Colwood Jan. 19. (Photo courtesy of View Royal Fire Rescue)
Two people escape injury in Colwood house fire

Heatherly Road fire started on a covered porch

A pinniped was attacked by an unseen predator off the shores of Dallas Road Monday night. (Courtesy of Steffani Cameron)
VIDEO: Seal hunting, not being hunted in video shot off Dallas Road

Victoria woman captures footage of pinniped activity off Dallas Road

B.C. Representative for Children and Youth Jennifer Charlesworth (Black Press files)
B.C. watchdog says mentally ill children and youth retraumatized in hospital

The number of children held under the Mental Health Act has increased an alarming 162 per cent in past decade

Cranbrook Food Bank coordinator Deanna Kemperman, Potluck Cafe Society executive director Naved Noorani and Sunshine Coast Community Services Society executive director Catherine Leach join B.C.’s new Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne on a video call about B.C. gaming grants, Jan. 19, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. gaming grants reorganized for COVID-19 priorities

Minister highlights community kitchens, food banks

(Black Press Media file photo)
From arts to environment, nominate your West Shore hero

Nominations for the Goldstream Gazette’s Local Hero awards are open

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

A new video from NCCIH and BC Northern Health titled ‘Healing in Pandemic Times: Indigenous Peoples, Stigma and COVID-19’ was animated by Joanne Gervais. (Photo Provided By: NCCIH Archives)
VIDEO: Stigma against Indigenous people is a ‘social sickness’

A new short animated video is aiming to educate the public on the stigmatization

Nanaimo RCMP are investigating after a threat was made at Woodgrove Centre on Tuesday, Jan. 19. (News Bulletin file photo)
Threat directed at Nanaimo mall, RCMP investigating

Police have searched areas of Woodgrove Centre accessible to shoppers and have deemed it safe

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Canada’s pitch to the Biden team has framed Keystone XL as a more environmentally friendly project than original

The British Columbia Hotel Association (BCHA) sent out a sharply worded release late last week, in which it noted that the Tourism Industry Association of BC recently obtained a ‘legal opinion’ on the matter (Alex Passini photo)
Hotel associations push back against any potential ban on inter-provincial, non-essential travel restrictions

B.C. Premier John Horgan is seeking legal advice on banning non-essential travel

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
COVID rapid tests in long-term care key during vaccine rollout: B.C. care providers

‘Getting kits into the hands of care providers should be a top priority,’ says former Health Minister

Most Read