Goldstream River Fuel Spill

Goldstream River cleared of  life after 40,000 litres of gasoline spilled into it
On April 16th, during the anniversary week of the BP oil spill, a Vancouver Island fuel truck driver celebrated by having a few (allegedly), then crashing his truck spilling over 40,000 liters of gasoline and diesel on the Malahat highway 17 km from Victoria.

The Malahat, named after local First Nations, is a section of Highway 1 that runs along Saanich Inlet, and is described as a "famously winding and steep route". It passes through much-loved Goldstream Provincial Park which contains ancient forest and one of the most productive salmon streams on Vancouver Island.

Fuel trucks coming from terminals in Nanaimo laden with tens of thousands of liters of fuel are on the highway most days delivering the fuel that area residents use. All of these trucks, loaded with their toxic cargo, use the heavily commuter-laden twisty route. It is inevitable that such a crash would occur sooner or later, and when it happened, it happened in one of the worst possible locations.

Over 40,000 liters of gasoline, and smaller amounts of diesel, spilled from the crumpled tanks into a roadside ditch. The hydrocarbons fouled a ditch that drained into the Goldstream River. The spilled fuel flowed into the river, and eventually into Finlayson Arm, where a slick was seen shortly after.

It is not known how the spill will impact the area in the long run. In the short term though, it appears that all life in Goldstream River below the spill was wiped out. Some plant life immediately alongside the river was also killed instantly. Can the fuel move laterally through the soil threatening some of the big trees?

Local First Nations, that have relied on the area for thousands of years for fishing, hunting, and the collection of medicinal plants, could be facing years of impacts from this unfortunate poisoning.

It is sad to note that much of the news since this tragic accident has been about inconvenienced commuters left stranded after the only route up-island was closed for the clean-up operation. Commuters that use the fuel that is trucked over the Malahat, some of which ended up fouling a major natural resource the day of the crash.

Columbia Fuels, the company responsible, has generously offered to compensate all those inconvenienced commuters. As far as I know, to date they have not offered to compensate First Nations. I doubt, also, that they will find compensation for the school groups that were planning to release salmon fry this week into the now-tainted river.

Nor have I heard anything about how they will compensate the trees for the loss of the nutrient boost of thousands of spawned out salmon. Or how they will compensate the thousands of eagles that come here to fatten up on salmon every fall.

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