Suncor spill on March 24 not reported until April 11

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Jennifer Moreau
Suncor is cleaning up a spill at its Port Moody plant, on the Burnaby border, where a small amount of material has seeped into the Burrard Inlet.

Suncor spokesperson Sneh Seetal said the spill was discovered at about 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 6. Approximately 225 barrels of a soybean-based biodegradable product leaked on Suncor’s property. A small amount reached the water, possibly two litres, but Seetal wasn’t able to confirm the amount. The product is used as a blending agent in biofuels. Seetal said that, according to the product’s material safety data sheet, it’s not classified as environmentally hazardous.

“Any time there’s a product that’s not intended for release, we’re not happy about it. It’s unacceptable,” Seetal said.

Suncor has a blending and holding facility in Port Moody, right on the border with Burnaby, overlooking the Burrard Inlet. Seetal said the company alerted the B.C. Environment Ministry and Environment Canada and called on Western Canada Marine Response Corporation to help with the clean-up efforts.

Seetal said the company contained the leak, isolated the tank, drained the tank, and dug a ditch around it to contain the material. They also blocked the stormwater sewer to stop any leakage into the Burrard Inlet. Booms and absorbent pads were also deployed, Seetal added.

When asked why Suncor didn’t alert the public or the media, Seetal said the company did follow its response plan.

“But absolutely, we will be undergoing a thorough investigation of the incident, and that would involve notification,” she added.

She also indicated the exact cause of the leak was undergoing investigation, too.

Local MP Kennedy Stewart alerted media about the spill.

He said he first heard the news after some of his constituents called him, having heard there was some kind of spill and wondering why they couldn’t find any information about it online, nor any news stories. Stewart raised concerns that Suncor didn’t alert the public.

“I was thinking in this circumstance, they would issue a media advisory, but none of that happened,” he said.

“I’d like to hear more details, but it does appear the spill happened on Saturday, and there was nothing available to the public for quite a few days, so that’s not a good thing. It just shows you what happens when you live in a municipality with a lot of petro-chemical facilities,” he said. “The Conservatives just said we have this world-class marine response, and people don’t hear about this in their own backyard for days. Perhaps not world-class yet.”

According to the City of Port Moody, based on information they say came from the Environment Ministry, the spill actually happened earlier, sometime between March 24 and 27, but it was discovered on April 6.

That’s when Suncor observed a sheen on the water in the Burrard Inlet. Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, which handles oil spill cleanup on the West Coast, was on the scene that evening, and “the material was deemed to be non-recoverable,” according to the Environment Ministry briefing.

“Initial estimates have indicated that approximately two litres of R100 (the material in question) made it to the marine environment, i.e., Burrard Inlet, through the oil-water separator, which discharges through company stormwater infrastructure and a Port Metro Vancouver outfall,” the briefing states.

SNC Lavalin will assess if there is contamination onsite, the degree of migration, and what actions are required to remedy the situation. According to the briefing, the Environment Ministry “has advised Suncor that the inspection has transitioned into an investigation,” and Suncor is complying.

According to the City of Port Moody, the Environment Ministry called a meeting for Thursday, April 11, and invited federal and provincial agencies, First Nations, Metro Vancouver and neighbouring municipalities, including the City of Burnaby.

Meanwhile, Suncor is still cleaning up the land-based part of the spill.

Western Canada Marine Response did not return calls.

Alan Dutton, a member of Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion, said Suncor should have reported the spill to the public.

“If the public will have any trust in a pipeline company, in the oil industry in general or in tank farms, we have to make sure incidents are reported publicly in a timely manner,” he said. “It’s incumbent on the oil and gas industry to make sure they are open with the public.”

The NOW requested the material safety data sheet for R100, the spilled chemical, but Suncor was not able to provide it by press time.

Material safety data sheets contain information on any potential hazards for chemical products.

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Original source article: UPDATE: Suncor cleaning up spill close to Burnaby border