Editorial: Risks of more spills not worth it for coastal communities


Tuesday, November 1 2016

Talk about terrifying. 

The tugboat Nathan E Stewart, which sank near Bella Bella back on October 13, was hardly the largest ship on the West Coast. But she carried around 200,000 litres of fuel when she went aground and sank.

And now, weeks later, she remains under the water and the booms set up to contain leaking fuel and contaminants have broken apart - unable to hold fast against the power of wind and water.

The timing on this disaster could not have been better to demonstrate just how hard it can be to deal with a spill (of any kind) on the West Coast.

To think of larger ships, tankers, getting into a situation like the Stewart - impacting sea beds, fisheries, local wildlife - there is a lot at risk if the federal and provincial government cannot deliver what they’ve both said must be a world-class response to events on the water.

Let’s not forget there’s still two tugboats sitting underwater off Gabriola’s western cliffs. Neither has - to the Sounder’s knowledge - been pumped clean of fuel or other contaminants. 

Those anchorages being proposed off Gabriola’s north-east shore - just imagine if one of those monster ships loses even a fraction of fuel or other contaminants.

Hazard assessment means knowing what will happen if there is an accident.

Risk management means calculating how likely it is that accident is to happen.

The Heiltsuk First Nation are, unfortunately, left with the disaster from the Stewart and will be dealing with the impacts for many years to come. They know what the hazards are.

The rest of us, we’re doing risk assessment, and the chances of us having to deal with a similar issue go way up if more ships (tankers et cetera) are plying our waters and coming close to our shores.