Monday, October 05, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Monday, October 5, 2009

The recent oil spill exercise, Enbridge's resolve towards marine safety and a plane crash near Prince Rupert are among the highlights of the Monday news review.

DAILY NEWS, Front page, headline story
OIL SPILL DRILL HARBOUR-- A review of the recent environmental marine exercise held in Prince Rupert harbour, which helped to highlight local capabilities in the event of a local oil spill (Daily News Archive Article ).
The news item was also featured on CFTK TV 7's news last week with this video report.

While Prince Rupert was conducting its own marine disaster drill in the harbour and a real time marine emergency event was taking place in Douglas Channel near Kitimat, Enbridge was laying out its message on the safety precautions that they would have in place as part of the Northern Gateway terminal project for Kitimat, should that project gain approval from regulators (Daily News Archive Article)
A local Prince Rupert student has picked up a 5,000 dollar scholarship to help her further her post secondary education. Kaeleen Foote graduated with an Associate Arts Degree from NWCC and now has moved on to UNBC, making use of her scholarship. The details on the scholarship program were outlined in the Monday edition of the Daily News (Daily News Archive Article)

The Daily News sports section featured a review of the Prince Rupert Rampages' weekend action at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre.

Northern View, web extra
Coast Guard rescues plane crash survivors near Prince Rupert-- The Northern View is the first with the details of a weekend plane crash near Prince Rupert, which brought out the Prince Rupert based, Point Henry and a Buffalo helicopter to conduct the search. (see article here)

Daily News, front page story
Oil spill drill in the harbour
By George T. Baker

The Prince Rupert Daily News
Monday, October 5, 2009

The commotion out on the harbour was something locals hope never comes in reality.

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation/Burrard Clean Operations coordinated a simulated exercise in equipment and resources deployment to handle a 10,000 tonne oil spill clean up, using both Canadian and American Coast Guard units and local fishermen.

Since 1995, there has been a system in place to respond to a severe oil spill accident, but Thursday's exercise was more about testing the capacity of mobilizing operations in Prince Rupert with a command centre located in town.

It also gave Burrard Clean an opportunity to prove to Transport Canada that in fact it could respond properly if a 10,000 tonne - or 1 million litre - spill occurred.

According to Canadian Coast Guard Senior Response Officer - Training Environmental Response leader Daniel Reid, the Coast Guard's role in case of a spill is to oversee the work led by Burrard Clean.

"If they are able to respond then we will allow them to do their work, but if they can't meet the response then the Coast Guard would take over," said Reid.

During the day's event, community stakeholders, coast guard members on both sides of the border and North Coast MLA Gary Coons were given a front row seat to witness how the process works.

If there were an accident, buoys would be deployed as soon as possible (leaving time for reaching the location of the spill) around the spill location. The buoys, in a horseshoe shape almost the size of a football field with an open section in the middle, are then dragged along to isolate the oil and force it through that section.

A skim net then is dragged behind the buoy by Burrard's Eagle Bay boat where the oil is scooped up and handled.

Clean up crew on shore were also shown to locals as Robert Stromdahl, the North Coast manager for Burrard Clean, described the strategy used to get oil off rocky beaches.

Oil reaching shore is the worst-case scenario because it is very difficult to clean off, and is time
consuming and costly.

"It's the last thing we want," said Stromdahl.

If it does happen, however, a team deploys to the beach, drilling holes in the ground to leak the oil back to the water. There it is scooped up by a line of pom-pom like sponges that suck in the oil.

While the exercise proved to be a success on the day, it should be noted that even an effective clean up is not a panacea to an oil spill.

There are many challenges that come with an oil spill response that go beyond the capacity of Burrard Clean to respond.

Because priority one is crew safety, if the weather is poor then a team will not respond until the water calms. Also, if the oil is noxious - or too hazardous - then likewise, the crew will await until it is deemed safe to respond.

Reid also informed the Daily News that it was important that Rupertites understood that the type of oil spilled is crucial to how fast a spill can be cleaned up.

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, when spilled, the various types of oil can affect the environment differently. They also differ in how hard they are to clean up.

Spill responders group oil into four basic varieties, from very light oil - which evaporate in one-to-two days - to heavy oil that does not evaporate and has severe impacts on waterfowl and fur-bearing mammals through coating and ingestion.

Given all the challenges a clean up spill poises, Coast Guard officials observing the clean up response drill said that in the best-case scenario, a 20 per cent clean up of an oil spill is considered, "very good."

Still, most observers believed yesterday's practice to be a success and including the public is an important part of the process.

Don Rodden is the Superintendent Environmental Response for Canadian Coast Guard Pacific Region and has 30 years of experience on the water. He said that in the past communication with the public had not been where it should have been.

"The public has a right to know what is happening out there and we are working closely with our public affairs people and gathering information in a timely manner so that we can update locals as fast as possible," said Rodden.

Among the tools being used in this advanced age of technology are Twitter and facebook accounts to reach as many people as possible.

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