Our View: Fish a barometer of fuel spill effects

If anything good is to come out of the weekend’s gas spill at Goldstream park, it’s reassuring to know that when disaster strikes, authorities are quick to respond.

Airplanes and helicopters circled over Finlayson Arm Sunday morning as scores of environmental officers, hazardous materials experts, environmental consultants and emergency responders surveyed the scene to understand the damage wrought, and to clean up what they could.

Unfortunately the vast majority of the 30,000 litres of gasoline that spilled from the crashed and overturned Columbia Fuels b-train went directly into the river before emergency responders flooded the area.

The crash and spill closed the Malahat Drive for almost 24 hours, stranding hundreds of people on both sides of the highway and prompting a response from Langford emergency social services (a relatively small number managed to drive through Finlayson Arm Road or use the Mill Bay ferry).

The disaster reenforced yet again that the single ribbon of highway between Greater Victoria and the rest of the Island is the only way in or out. Even the train isn’t running anymore.

The long-term environmental effects of dumping enough fuel to fill the tanks of about 600 cars will be measured in future fish runs. Goldstream hatchery biologists are fearful the river will be slow to recover.

Columbia Fuels was quick to hire two environmental firms to study the ground and water contamination.

Despite being next to a busy highway, Goldstream park and river are pristine slices of wilderness rarely seen in these parts due to urban growth. There’s a reason the park is filled each year with tourists, locals and school kids who gape at spawning salmon and giant cedars.

Columbia Fuels needs to continue to take responsibility to do what it takes for the habitat to be restored. If the driver of the b-train was drunk, as RCMP suspect, it will be a mighty struggle for the company to regain the trust of the public.

 

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