Archive for the ‘Industry’ Category

Robson Bight fuel cleanup irks chief

Matthew Kruchak, Times Colonist
Published: Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Chief of the Namgis First Nation is upset with the way the fuel spill in Robson Bight Ecological Reserve waters was handled, saying his community was shown a lack of respect by officials.

Chief Bill Cranmer said he was provided with little information about the barge that spilled logging equipment and diesel fuel into ecological-reserve waters on Monday.

In the treaty they’re currently negotiating, Robson Bight is at the south end of their claim, he said.

“They didn’t really talk to us right from the start,” he said. “It made us a little bit angry.”

B.C. Parks staff notified the community Monday and have been working with them since the spill, said Kate Thompson, spokeswomen for B.C. Ministry of Environment. The command team has been providing updates too, she said.

But for Cranmer, updates aren’t enough. He wanted someone from the First Nation to be part of the process.

“We have a lot of knowledge of the area,” he said.

“We’d also like to know what’s happening and what could be improved.”

But Thompson said they had the necessary response groups in place. “The First Nations were notified and they had what they needed on site.”

Cranmer would like to see a response team set up on the North Island to deal with future spills because response time was poor, he said.

“Just imagine if there was a bigger spill; it would be a disaster.”

B.C. Parks was on site immediately but various crews had to travel from Port Hardy, Nanaimo and Victoria, Thompson said.

Cranmer said he had people inspect the site and take photos of the barge owned by LeRoy Trucking.

“It looked like the barge shouldn’t have been in the water,” he said, after inspecting a photograph. “It was just a rusting hulk of a barge.”

LeRoy Trucking, which owns the now submerged equipment, which included a fuel truck, is organizing and paying for the cleanup.

Transport Canada is continuing to look into potential violations of the Canada Shipping Act.

Officials said they’ve moved from the spill-response phase to the monitoring process because of the high evaporation rate of diesel fuel.

An overflight of the site was made yesterday and quarter-sized droplets of diesel fuel were spotted rising to the surface and evaporating, said Dan Bate, spokesman for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

They were being released slowly at a rate of four an hour, he said.

It is likely that the tanks imploded on descent, releasing the fuel, which evaporated on the water’s surface, officials reported.

Environment Canada, the Ministry of Environment and the Canadian Coast Guard are reporting that no sheen or oil made it to the shoreline.

The 26-year-old ecological reserve was created to protect pods of northern resident killer whales that gather in the area over the summer.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada have reported that whales in the area appear to be behaving normally and protective booms were removed because they may affect the natural behaviors of the whales.

According to the Ministry of Environment, reports of distressed birds have been received but none of the sightings have been confirmed.


Is Robson Bight ‘protected’ in word alone?
Two levels of gov’t need to fix commercial ‘safety’ loopholes

Michael Smyth, The Province
Published: Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, the Vancouver Aquarium’s resident killer-whale expert, spent yesterday nervously counting orcas at the site of Monday’s barge accident around the protected waters of Robson Bight.

To his relief, he found all the whales accounted for and none exhibiting signs of immediate distress from the diesel fuel that spilled into their environment. “They appear to be fine — for now,” he said.

But as marine mammal toxicologist Peter Ross explained, breathing and swallowing the diesel can have immediate, though unapparent impacts — such as lung irritation — and worse effects later, such as infection and disease.

Most of the light sheen of fuel had evaporated by yesterday afternoon, though, yielding hope that B.C.’s most iconic and beloved animals had escaped the danger.

But the entire episode left Barrett-Lennard wondering just how “protected” Robson Bight really is.

The bight contains a broad pebble beach where the whales gather and exhibit the extraordinary behaviour of rubbing their bodies along the gravelly bottom. It’s one of the few places in the world where they do this and it makes perfect sense that it should be strictly protected.

Just one problem: Robson Bight is a provincial ecological reserve, while the movement of commercial shipping and fishing vessels through the area is a federal responsibility. The two levels of government have a committee to work out the jurisdictional overlap, but that doesn’t always prevent haphazard interventions into the whales’ sanctuary.

During the commercial fishing season, for example, up to 100 boats enter the bight to compete with the whales for salmon.

And, while the province does a good job of keeping kayakers and whale-watching tourist boats out of the bight, there is considerable tolerance for tugs and other commercial vessels to duck into the area, for safety reasons in poor weather or because of heavy two-way marine traffic in Johnstone Strait.

That has many critics alleging that commercial vessels abuse the “safety” loophole: Imagine a “safety-first” cruise ship entering the area, while giving oohing-and-aahing passengers a free killer-whale show, and you get the idea.

The bight is also sheltered from the strait’s strong currents, tempting tug boats to cut in close to shore for “safety” while simultaneously riding a convenient back-eddy to cut their journey short and save on gas.

It begs the question: Is Robson Bight protected or not?

Meanwhile, NDP environment critic Shane Simpson wonders why the government doesn’t have a local quick-response team and on-site oil-spill kits for emergencies such as Monday’s.

“If they did, you might have contained the spill within three or four hours instead of a day,” he said.

The bright side — if there is one — is that the accident should put pressure on governments to respond to some obvious problems.

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Alberta oil spills, blowouts double in past year

Darcy Henton, Edmonton Journal
Published: Monday, August 06, 2007

Alberta’s oilpatch recorded a dramatic increase in blowouts and oil spills last year, including a pipeline rupture worse than the spill caused by CN Rail’s 2005 train derailment near Wabamun Lake.

The Energy and Utilities Board says there were 45 incidents of uncontrollable emission of oil or gas in 2006, more than double the norm of about 20 annually and 30 per cent more than there were in 2005.

“It’s something that we’re looking at very closely,” said EUB spokesman Darin Barter. “If there are areas of weakness in our regulations, we need to determine that. Or is it an anomaly? That’s what we’re assessing now.

“We’re very concerned about that number.”

He couldn’t say if the 45 blowouts was a record for Alberta. There were also nearly 100 more spills in 2006 than the previous year, including a massive crude oil spill near Slave Lake that was originally reported as being about 1,260 barrels or 200,000 litres.

But an EUB investigation report filed last spring revealed the spill was actually more than six times as big, spilling nearly 1.3 million litres of oil. CN’s spill at Wabamun has been estimated at about 800,000 litres.

Barter said the oilpatch regulator was not deliberately trying to downplay the size of the spill.

“When an incident occurs like that, it’s difficult to get a sense of scale until it’s explored and contained,” he said.

Barter said the spike in blowouts and spills could be as a result of what he called “a dramatic rise in industry activity.” He noted that so far this year there haven’t been any blowouts.

But oilpatch critics expressed concern about the rising numbers of spills and blowouts, warning that the trend, if it continues, could lead to disaster. Twelve of the 45 incidents last year involved sour gas wells containing deadly hydrogen sulphide.

They fear a blowout of a sour gas well containing high concentrations of hydrogen sulphide could be just around the corner.

Liberal energy critic Hugh MacDonald, who worked in the oilpatch, said he was shocked by the data.

“The public certainly should be concerned,” MacDonald said. “I worked in a sour gas facility and you never get a second chance with sour gas. Never.”

One man died and two others were injured when a sour gas well near Brooks blew out of control and caught fire on Aug. 9, 2005.

MacDonald said that as the oilpatch matures, there should be more monitoring and inspections by the EUB to ensure proper maintenance, including pressure testing, is being conducted on oilpatch equipment.

Chris Severson-Baker of the Pembina Institute said the increase in blowouts is “troubling” because as sweet gas reserves dwindle, companies are now developing reserves containing high concentrations of hydrogen sulphide that they had ignored because of the increased cost and danger.

“We know the industry is pushing into areas that are very sour,” he said.

“The danger of people being hurt in a blowout is ever present, including after the well has been drilled, which is normally a safer time. But the stats are showing that wells are blowing out even when there isn’t drilling activity.”

Environmentalist Martha Kostuch of the Clean Air Strategic Alliance was surprised and concerned by the spike in blowouts. “I have concerns about the ability to respond to a major sour gas blowout, especially since the rules require that they ignite the well within 15 minutes,” Kostuch said.

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Port sludge dumped in U.S. waters
‘Serious violation’ of environmental permit

David Carrigg, The Province
Published: Friday, August 03, 2007

Canadian and U.S. authorities are investigating the dumping of thousands of tonnes of sludge into the U.S. side of the Strait of Georgia.

Duncan Wilson, spokesman for the Vancouver Port Authority, said 22,000-tonnes of sludge from the port’s Delta terminal expansion was wrongfully dumped by a contractor between May 31 and July 10 in U.S. waters.

The port learned of the mistake late last month when the B.C. Transmission Corp. reported that one of its underwater electrical power cables had been damaged by the sludge.

“This is a serious violation of an environmental permit,” Wilson said yesterday.

Environment Canada had permitted the sludge to be dumped in deep water in the Canadian section of the Strait of Georgia.

The port authority is currently adding a $300-million third berth to the existing two-berth terminal at the Deltaport container terminal at Roberts Bank.

It has contracted Delta Point Constructors Ltd. to build the berth and do the dredging, towing and dumping work for the project.

Wilson said the “clean” sludge is not suitable for use in construction and had been dumped about one kilometre from where it should have been.

The incident is now being investigated by Environment Canada, the port authority, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, B.C. Transmission Corp. and U.S. officials.

The investigators will determine who was responsible for the error and how to deal with it.

Wilson said a submersible vessel will be placed in the waters above the dump site today to take video footage to help investigators.

“There will be no more ocean disposal by barge until the contractor’s proposed plan to address the cause of this mistake has been accepted by Environment Canada,” said Chris Badger, the port’s vice-president of operations.

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Delta paint manufacturer had tainted safety record
WorkSafeBC says Chemcraft Sadolin cited for lax ignition control

Kent Spencer, The Province
Published: Friday, July 27, 2007

A Delta paint manufacturer where a man has died in an explosion was once ordered to change the way it handled flammable liquids.

The 2005 order from WorkSafeBC noted that “flammable gas was handled without all sources of ignition being adequately controlled.”

WorkSafeBC spokeswoman Donna Freeman said the paint company, Chemcraft Sadolin Ltd., was ordered to make other changes in procedures dating back to 2002.

“The company had issues with non-compliance but did come into compliance. There were no recommendations for penalties,” she said.

Freeman cautioned against drawing conclusions from the order to safeguard flammable liquids.

“I don’t know how high-risk the order was. It could be completely unrelated,” she said. “We will look at the records as part of our investigation.”

Company violations in 2004 included failure to ensure emergency eyewash was provided and not supplying adequate first-aid equipment.

The explosion Tuesday claimed the life of a Coquitlam man.

Delta Police Const. Paul Eisenzimmer said the 53-year-old man had “serious burns and blast trauma.” His name was not released.

Eight others — most of them suffering from smoke inhalation as a result of the explosion — were hospitalized and released.

Freeman said investigators are trying to determine the cause of the blast and reviewing safety procedures.

“The explosion of an undetermined substance occurred at 7 a.m. at the start of a production shift,” she said.

She said the company focused “primarily” on making paint.

The plant has been shut down since the explosion, but Freeman said some areas which were not affected could be reopened.

WorkSafeBC’s report will be issued in a few months. Officials of the company could not be reached yesterday for comment.

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Man dies from injuries in Tuesday’s Annacis Island explosion

Thursday, July 26 – 11:02:57 AM Karen Thomson

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – A man who was severely injured in Tuesday’s explosion on Annacis Island has now died. The 53-year-old man was working at the Chemcraft-Sadolin manufacturing plant that morning when the blast and fire occured. He suffered serious burns. Five other victims of the explosion have been treated and released.


Black Tuesday in Burnaby’s Westridge

By David Weir
Burnaby NewsLeader

Jul 26 2007

The stench of crude oil hung heavy over a North Burnaby neighbourhood as crews continued the clean up effort Wednesday, one day after a backhoe hit an underground pipeline, sending oil shooting up to 12 metres in the air and a river of the black gold flowing downhill toward Burrard Inlet.

At the height of the emergency, as many as 100 homes in the area where Inlet Drive links the Barnet Highway with Hastings Street were under a voluntary evacuation notice as firefighters tried to stem the flow of oil into the inlet.

But by early evening, the evacuation notice was scaled back to the 11 homes most seriously affected on Belcarra Drive.

Meanwhile, crews worked through the night to clean the slick black mess from Inlet Drive in the hopes the major commuter route linking Port Moody with Burnaby could be reopened by Thursday morning’s rush hour.

At the same time, the cost of the disaster is being tallied – both in terms of property damage and environmental damage from oil entering the Burrard Inlet.

“It is bad – there’s no question about it. It’s millions and millions of dollars of damage that’s been done as a result of it,” said Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan.

“There’s some pretty serious property damage to some private home owners. There obviously is some additional damage that’s been caused to our inlet as a result of oil going downhill and into the inlet. Right now they’re doing an assessment of that with the B.C. ministry of the environment and federal ministry.”

The accident happened around 12:35 p.m. Tuesday as a crew from Cusano Contracting Inc. was working on a sewer line for the City of Burnaby. A backhoe was digging near the intersection of Inlet and Ridge drives when it struck a pipeline that was pumping crude from the TransMountain Pipeline terminus on Burrard Inlet to a tank farm on Burnaby Mountain.

The rupture sent crude shooting up to 12 metres in the air, covering the backhoe, a nearby car and the roadway. The oil was also shooting over the fence into the Westridge residential area. There are reports of at least one home on Belcarra Drive being covered in crude, and the cul-de-sac was turned into an oily mess.

“I smelled the smell of gas or oil in my home and the next thing I knew I heard a frantic knock on the door of my upstairs neighbour and it was a police officer telling us we had to be evacuated from our street immediately,” said Natalie Marson, who lives on Belcarra.

“It’s a pretty black slick at the end of my street,” she said when asked to describe the scene. “Belcarra is on a cul-de-sac and the trees and street are black with oil. It’s just not a very good thing.”

Emergency officials initially ordered the evacuation of roughly 30 homes on Belcarra, Sierra and Malibu drives, but the order was later expanded to cover up to 100 homes in the area because of health concerns about the fumes, before scaling it back to the 11 most seriously affected homes.

The evacuees were taken to Confederation Park Seniors Centre while the city lined up temporary lodging. It could be a couple of days before they are allowed to return home.

Corrigan was at a loss to explain how the accident happened. Kinder Morgan, which operates the pipeline, had provided the city and the road crew a map showing where the pipeline was supposed to be.

“The information that they had was that there wasn’t going to be a pipeline affected, and apparently there was in fact a pipeline there – they clipped it and that was what caused the oil geyser,” Corrigan said.

“Obviously we’re going to have a long, hard look at the procedures and protocols that were followed here to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”

He added the focus so far has not been on the investigation, but rather on clean up and mitigation.

“The priorities right now are the immediate and urgent circumstances and we’ll try to sort out afterwards where blame is apportioned,” Corrigan said.

On Tuesday, firefighters used sand to create mini dikes to hold back the river of crude flowing down Belcarra. They also raced to block off manhole covers and storm sewer drains in an effort to keep the crude from entering the storm sewer system and flowing out into the inlet.

Still, there was oil that reached the inlet as Burrard Clean rushed to get containment booms set up to control the growing oil slick. Within three hours of the rupture, oil was visible on the shoreline at the eastern edge of Barnet Marine Park, about 1.5 kilometres from where the crude likely entered the water.

Kinder Morgan has also hired Focus Wildlife to clean and rehabilitate any wildlife covered by the sticky, black crude oil. As of noon Wednesday, the organization had rescued five birds from the affected area.

It was approximately 30 minutes before the pipeline was shut down, but it’s still not known how much oil escaped from the ruptured pipeline.


“Kinder Morgan Marked by Spills”, The Tyee (July 26, 2007)


Golden Ears Bridge workers burned by acid

By Jeff Nagel
Black Press

Jul 21 2007

A group of workers helping to build the Golden Ears Bridge has been repeatedly burned by hydrochloric acid that sometimes mists down upon them from an adjacent work site.

And WorkSafeBC safety inspectors – despite investigating the situation for more than a month – have struggled to end the dangerous acid shower, which has sent at least two workers to hospital for treatment.

The workers at the 199A Street construction site near the Surrey-Langley border are employed by German firm Bilfinger Berger, one of the private partners in the Golden Crossing Constructors Joint Venture building the bridge for TransLink.

Next to them is APS Architectural Precast Structures Ltd., a business that has been there since well before bridge construction began.

APS workers, who are well protected, sometimes pressure wash precast concrete using a hydrochloric acid solution.

All was well until a wall that had separated the two workplaces had to be dismantled as part of the bridge construction, allowing the acid overspray to drift onto Bilfinger workers when the wind blows their way.

“Our face is burning and itching and there is redness in our eyes and we have difficulty breathing,” workers said in an anonymous letter sent to Black Press.

They say they’ve repeatedly asked for help and don’t understand why they weren’t at least given the same masks and respirators APS workers use 30 feet away.

WorkSafeBC officers first flagged the problem June 6 and returned June 27 to find it unresolved.

“Continued exposure of workers to acid-containing mist is not acceptable,” Bilfinger was warned in a report dated June 28.

Part of the challenge is normal worker safety provisions don’t cover cases like this where one work site is affecting the workers at another site when the two are unrelated and not part of the same overall project.

“Our legislation doesn’t apply,” said Tom Lauritzen, WorkSafeBC’s regional prevention manager for the Fraser Valley.

His officers have still tried to broker a deal that allows APS to continue its work, but in a way that protects Bilfinger’s workers.

Lauritzen said APS has tried hard to contain the airborne acid.

“They’re doing everything within their power to deal with it,” he said. “They’ve tried to put up shielding to stop it, but it hasn’t been effective to date.”

By early July, Lauritzen thought a solution had been found.

Bilfinger workers would put down their tools and leave by 3:30 p.m. every day and APS would only spray after that time.

But he said Bilfinger managers apparently failed to tell APS a few days later when bridge workers were going to stay late.

“There was a communications breakdown,” Lauritzen said. “There were workers there and they ended up getting another spray.”

Adding to the confusion is that APS often uses straight water, rather than acid, in its pressure spraying.

But Bilfinger workers, after being burned a few times, now tend to panic as soon as any liquid starts to fall on them.

WorkSafeBC met with both sides again last week.

“My officers met with both employers and in essence laid down the law and said you’ve got to deal with this,” Lauritzen said.

He’s hopeful there will be no more repeats, so long as the crews communicate.

If acid mist does start falling on workers, he said, Bilfinger Berger must immediately move its people out of danger.

“We’re just doing everything we can to keep them out of the way of that mist,” confirmed Ian McLeod, Golden Ears Bridge project spokesman.

The GVRD is also investigating the acid overspray as a potential air emission violation at the request of the joint venture.

“We think the solution to the problem is for APS to stop emitting toxic substances into the area around its property,” McLeod said.

“How far should an employer go in designing our operations to protect against a localized and preventable problem that is caused by someone else?”

APS managers could not be reached for comment.

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