Officials angry over mystery toxic slick in Vancouver’s English Bay

Vancouver: City officials and politicians in Vancouver expressed alarm that they were not informed for more than 12 hours after a kilometre-long mystery toxic slick appeared in English Bay on Wednesday evening.

While Canadian Coast Guard and Port Metro Vancouver personnel went into action to tackle the spill, local government was in the dark about the development until Thursday morning, which did not sit well with councillors who were concerned the delay prevented the city from issuing timely warnings to the public.

The nature and source of the fuel spilled were not known as of Thursday evening, although it is believed to have come from a freighter in Burrard Inlet.

Heavy fuel was washing up on Vancouver beaches and city officials, once aware, alerted citizens to refrain from touching the substance.

Port Metro Vancouver’s harbour patrol team was the first to the scene of the spill on Wednesday around 5pm when the initial report came in from a sailboat of an oily sheen on the Burrard Inlet.

At the Coast Guard’s request the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation laid long orange containment booms to limit the substance’s spread.

A spokesman for the Coast Guard said the material was being treated as either bunker fuel or, in a “worst-case scenario”, as raw crude until test results came back.

Two large patches of the spill had been spotted moving toward the North Shore of the city, and had been collected immediately but no large slicks had touched the shoreline as of Thursday afternoon the spokesman said. He added that 1,400 litres of the substance had been gathered and the Coast Guard estimated a total of 2,800 litres had been spilled.

A grain vessel that is the suspected source of the spill was boomed off in the middle of the spill area. Crew of that ship, the Marathassa (80,635 dwt, built 2015) denied releasing any material into the water.

The Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre is on standby in case wildlife becomes affected.

The cleanup operation and investigation of cause were ongoing on Thursday evening.

Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.
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