A barge loaded with logging equipment heeled over and dumped 10 vehicles, including a fuel truck containing 2,600 gallons of diesel fuel, into one of British Columbia’s most famous ecological reserves.
The barge, owned by Ted LeRoy Trucking Ltd. of Chemainus, British Columbia, a contractor for TimberWest Forest Corp., was being towed eastbound on Aug. 20 by the 38-foot Kathy L, owned by Gowlland Towing Ltd. of Campbell River, British Columbia, when it listed shortly before 1200 and lost the logging equipment at Robson Bight on the east coast of Vancouver Island.
The Robson Bight (Michael Biggs) Ecological Reserve, famous for beaches used by orcas that rub themselves on the pebbly bottoms, was established in June 1982. A no-entrance zone of 3,084 acres and a protection buffer of 3,484 acres was created for the protection of the whales and to conduct research on them.
An investigation by the Ministry of the Environment determined that the barge was within the boundaries of the ecological reserve when it lost the equipment.
Dan Bate, a communications officer with the Canadian Coast Guard, says that the equipment lost off the barge included a pickup truck, an ambulance, a small crew bus, an excavator, a bulldozer, a shop truck, two log loaders, a grapple yarder, a shipping container and a fuel truck with a tank containing 2,600 gallons of diesel fuel. The equipment is lying in over 1,000 feet of water.
Burrard Clean, an environmental cleanup company, set booms around sensitive habitat areas such as the rubbing beaches and salmon streams.
Initially an 8.7-mile-long diesel sheen on the water was reported. Four days later, after several over flights and site inspections, officials determined that only four marble-sized drops of diesel were surfacing per hour.
“As they rose to the surface, they experienced rapid evaporation,” Bate said. “Based on the fact there was limited to no impact to the shoreline and that some of the booming that was in place was impeding to whale foraging patterns, Burrard Clean stood down at the request of the responsible party and the booming was removed.”
Brian Lewis, regional senior investigator for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said the TSB was doing an assessment to determine whether to conduct an investigation. “We are trying to determine what the safety issues are and whether they warrant the spending of public funds to see if it has a safety payoff in terms of that,” Lewis said.
It is still unclear why the barge went down at one corner and lost the equipment.