Hypothetically speaking, 1,000-litres of hydraulic oil spilled into the Ucluelet harbour on Nov. 10 from a ruptured bulk tank at the fuel dock.
This annual mock marine spill scenario provided vital training time to Eagle Marine – Columbia Fuels staff Jeff Lee and Cavin Donald and operations manager Mike Marriott, who would ultimately be the first responders in the event of an actual real oil spill.
Although Eagle Marine contracts Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) to mitigate spills, it takes the corporation 5-hours to arrive on scene from Nanaimo and initiate clean-up.
“Me and Cav did the initial containment in the bulk with spill pads and spill booms. And then we took the boat out and made a secondary barricade in the water to contain it, down stream from the tide,” said local surfer and fuel dock attendant Jeff Lee.
“Everything was set-up really well. We just had to tie them together and get them in the water. It was pretty simple, actually,” he said of the training exercise.
“I’ve never done anything like this in my life as far as containment for any kind of spill. There are days when I’m going to be down here alone, so it’s good to know that you’re not going to screw up somewhere you love, like the harbour.”
While Lee and Donald contained the spill, Marriott called WCMRC for emergency assistance and contacted Emergency Management B.C. (EMBC) and the Coast Guard to alert them of the mock spill.
The notification process proved to be problematic as it took Marriott six attempts before getting a definitive response from the Coast Guard. Later on in the debriefing portion of the emergency training exercise, the question arose as to whether or not it was even the responsibility of Columbia Fuels to alert the Coast Guard or the responsibility of EMBC.
Parkland Fuel Corporation health, safety, and environment field manager Lance Amos was quick to point out that had they decided to use the radio, communications with Coast Guard would have been more fluid.
“For the purpose of the mock, we chose to use landlines instead of the radio system. That’s were we found there was an inconsistency talking to them versus if we contacted them by radio that would have all gone through. We just didn’t want to use the radio system because everyone could hear it and there would have been some confusion,” said Amos.
Aside from the miscommunication with the Coast Guard, Marriot was pleased with how the mock marine spill response was conducted.
“Having done it for a second time around, it definitely went smoother. I would say it was twice as better as last year; coordination wise, understanding what to do, working together as a team, and understanding how to work with other groups in the community,” he said.
Amos agreed, adding he thought the initial containment of the spill went very well.
“If there had been a real spill, we got the booms out within a couple minutes and then after that it was kind of a hurry-up-and-wait when we were doing all the phoning and notification, but the initial get-the-booms-out went very well,” said Amos.
In terms of improving procedures for next years’ mock spill drill, the idea of pre-connecting the booms and storing them in a different location was suggested as was wearing better safety gear and purchasing skimmer equipment.