Environmental lawsuit against province over jet fuel spill approved by B.C. court

The law firm representing 2,500 residents says it's the first such environmental lawsuit certified by the court against the province of B.C.

35,000 litres of jet fuel spilled into the Slocan River water system in 2013

A tanker carrying 35,000 litres of jet fuel crashed into Lemon Creek, about 60 kilometres north of Castlegar, B.C., on July 27 2013. (The Canadian Press)

A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has approved a class-action lawsuit against the provincial government over a fuel spill that forced the evacuation of thousands of residents in the Slocan Valley four years ago.

The law firm representing 2,500 residents says it's the first such environmental lawsuit certified by the court against the province of B.C.

The firm, Rosenberg Kosakoski Litigation, says in a statement the tanker truck that overturned, spilling 35,000 litres of jet fuel into the Slocan River water system was part of a province-led refuelling operation for firefighting helicopters.

Resident Sarosha Stockton says he found dead fish and jet fuel in the Slocan River on Saturday, some 24 hours after the spill. (Sarosha Stockton)

The action alleges the province caused the disaster because of operational mismanagement and then failed to adequately respond to the spill, which resulted in millions of dollars in damages to private property and the ecosystem.

At the time, residents were evacuated and a do-not-use water order was put into effect as the fuel moved from Lemon Creek into the Slocan River.

The firm says in the statement that the province contested the class-action application, pointing blame at its co-defendants including the firms contracted by the government to execute the operation.

Executive Flight Centre Fuel Services blamed the accident on the provincial government, alleging it received poor directions to the delivery point. (CBC)

Calgary-based Executive Flight Centre owned the truck that was on its way to supply helicopters battling a nearby wildfire when it overturned into the creek.

The statement says Justice David Masuhara rejected the province's position, saying everyone should be concerned when the government fails in its duties to protect the environment and take responsibility for its mistakes.