Skip to comments.Mystery fuel leak seeps into Burrard Inlet
Posted on 06/01/2010 2:50:15 AM PDT by Palter
Oil, gas from Chevron refinery in Burnaby has been flowing for weeks
METRO VANCOUVER -- Chevron Corporation has been trying for weeks to locate the source of a "historic" leak from its Burnaby oil and gas refinery -- a leak that has been seeping still-unknown amounts of oil, gas and diesel fuel into the Burrard Inlet since at least April 21.
Ray Lord, a spokesman for the multinational oil and gas company, said he has no idea how long the seepage from the nearly 70-year-old plant has been happening, but that Chevron first alerted the authorities about the leak on April 21, after discovering the toxic pollutants on the waters and beaches of the Burrard Inlet.
"We've been trying to find a source for a number of weeks now," said Lord.
He believes that the current problem is more likely the result of prolonged oil seepage into the groundwater beneath the refinery which has now found its way into the inlet, rather than the result of an acute rupture or spill.
"We think it's more of a historic situation that's become evident over time," Lord said, noting that the particular area of the refinery that is contaminating the groundwater has been in operation since the 1950s.
For now, the seepage appears to be confined to 25 metres of shoreline next to the refinery, but Lord acknowledged that clean up of the refinery site itself would be a long and difficult process.
"We'll probably be dealing with this site for a period of years," he said.
Currently the company says there is no way to know yet how much fuel has polluted the underground waterways, but Lord confirmed that they have been detecting and monitoring oil seepage on the refinery site since 2004.
B.C. Environment Minister Barry Penner was unavailable for comment Thursday, but a statement from his office suggested the ministry would be taking a back-seat to Chevron as the lead investigator in the incident.
"A pending environmental assessment by the [Chevron] company will provide further information in regard to the extent of contamination," the release read. "Chevron will be conducting sampling of the foreshore area in approximately one week to assess the integrity of the receiving environment...We suggest contacting Chevron as the responsible party."
Speaking on Penner's behalf, B.C. government house leader and Attorney General Mike de Jong said officials with the Ministry of Environment have known about the leak since April 21, and have been working with Chevron "to ascertain what's taking place, why and how to stop it and to make sure it's contained."
When asked why the government had not told the public about the spill, de Jong said the leak is too small to require such disclosure.
"Initially they found some evidence of I'm not sure sludge is the technical term in a ditch. Then later, a sheen on the water of the sort you would see in a marina," he said, adding estimates suggest the leak to be limited to about half a barrel.
"It's important not to jump to conclusions about the magnitude or the cause of what's happened," he added.
Under regulations, public disclosure needs to take place for spills over 100 litres. Because this leak is believed to be below that amount, government said, disclosure was not required.
New Democratic Party critic for the environment Rob Fleming said he thinks the government should have told the public as soon as it knew of the problem.
"They didn't bother sharing the information with the public. They kept it secret. And only when news items came out about it did the government reveal that they had been warned over a month ago that this incident had begun," he said.
"This is a spill that has been ongoing for a month and it continues," he added. "That's the real concern here."
Environment Canada spokeswoman Tracy Lacroix-Wilson said the federal organization is aware of the problem but does not investigate particular cases such as this unless a crime appears to have been committed.
John Werring, an aquatic habitat specialist with the David Suzuki Foundation, found the federal government's explanation unsatisfactory.
"It could very well be a crime. They may be permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance into waters frequented by fish. This is under the purview of Environment Canada and they're responsible for marine habitat. It's their bailiwick, it's not the province," said Werring. "I cannot understand how they could actually wash their hands of this -- it's absurd."
Public access to the affected beach-area has been restricted by Chevron until further notice.
A cleanup in progress of an oily substannce detected along the CP Rail right of way north of the Chevron oil refinery in Burnaby.
A map shows the location of the Chevron refining plant, adjacent to a shore of Burrard Inlet, where a mysterious leakage has been seeping into the ground and water.
Chevron officials believe that the current problem at the Chevron refinery in Burnaby is more likely the result of prolonged oil seepage into the groundwater beneath the refinery which has now found its way into the inlet, rather than the result of an acute rupture or spill.
April 21st? Timing...?
Heh, probably the 20th, ya know, b-day of Hitler. Lot’s of bad stuff have happened on that day.
Legacy underground plumbing?