West Coast barge spill narrowly averted

Thursday, December 16, 2010
CBC News

A potentially disastrous spill on B.C.'s West Coast was narrowly averted when a barge loaded with a solid petroleum product lost its towline in rough seas and began drifting toward a rocky shoreline.

Transportation Safety Board Senior investigator Bill Dutrizak said the incident began on early Monday morning near Bella Bella on the Central Coast when the American barge, which was loaded with a product called petroleum coke, broke free from the tug.

"When the tow broke loose, [the barge] was headed right for those rocks ... It was extremely close," said Dutrizak.

Another tug eventually came to the rescue, helped get the barge back under control, and it was safely towed to Kitimat.

Dutriziak said the TSB investigators launched an investigation after learning of the incident on Wednesday.
'Very significant'

Environmentalist Ian McAllister, who lives just across the water from the mishap, says high winds and pounding waves almost pushed the barge right into exposed reefs.

"This almost caused a very significant disaster," said McAllister, who is actively involved in a campaign to ban oil tankers from the West Coast,

"Anyone that looks at the maps and the track of the tugs when the incident happened and knows those waters knows how fortunate the B.C. coast was that night," said McAllister, who is the conservation director with Pacific Wild.

Petroleum coke is produced at crude oil refineries and is used in the aluminum smelting industry. Alcan operates a large aluminum smelter in Kitimat.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/12/16/bc-west-coast-spill.html#ixzz18Pdk0ggo


All Photography © Ian McAllister unless otherwise noted.
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