Roughly 2,700 litres of diesel fuel spilled out of a tank at a Ucluelet fuel dock last month. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

Spill contained at Ucluelet fuel dock

“At the rate of pumping, which is quite fast, it only took a matter of minutes to overfill.”

Two key equipment malfunctions are being blamed for a fuel spill at a Ucluelet fuel dock last month.

Roughly 2,600 litres of diesel fuel spilled out of a tank at the Columbia Fuels Eber Road facility on Sept. 19. A Ministry of Environment spokesperson told the Westerly News last week that the spill had been contained and no fuel reached the water.

“Qualified professionals are on site to manage the cleanup effort,” the spokesperson said. “Crews have been working on clean up since Sept. 19, digging out impacted soil and intercepting contaminated run-off.”

Columbia Fuels is a wholly owned subsidiary of Parkland Fuel Corporation. Parkland’s Manager of environment and emergency response Adam Cooney told the Westerly News the 2,600-litre spill occurred while a fuel truck was filling a 50,000 litre tank roughly 100 metres from the shoreline.

As the tank was being filled, a high-level alarm failed to go off and an automatic levelling system that’s supposed to allow fuel from one tank to flow into another also malfunctioned, causing the tank to overflow and fuel to spill out of an air-vent at the top of it.

“Because the infrasture wasn’t allowing the auto levelling, the tank filled up to an overfill condition,” Cooney said. “At the rate of pumping, which is quite fast, it only took a matter of minutes to overfill to [2,600 litres].”

He added the fuel truck’s driver did not hear the spill over the sound of his truck, which must be running during the fueling process, but saw the fuel spilling out during a routine check.

“He noticed it visually coming out of the top and then immeditaley shut the pumping down,” Cooney said adding the driver notified the facility manager, which began a communication protocol chain while local employees worked to contain the spill.

He said emgergency spill equipment, like absorbent pads, were deployed to contain the spill and an excavator was called in and arrived “within an hour” to begin removing impacted soil.

He said the company is combing through what went wrong and undergoing a “full engineering investigation” of its infrastructure to determine what equipment needs to be upgraded.

He added other strategies are being looked into, like increasing tank capacity and slowing the flow rate from the fuel truck to the tank and that the company’s delivery and response staff will receive new and upgraded training in the near future. He said the site had not experienced a spill for roughly four years prior to September’s incident.

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