NB Power malfunction causes oil spill at Mactaquac dam

An oil spill at the Mactaquac hydro dam on Thursday released between 19 and 38 litres of teresso 32 oil into the St. John River and more than 2,050 litres at the NB Power station.

Crown corporation says non-hazardous teresso 32 oil seeped into the St. John river early on Thursday morning

NB Power says up to 38 litres of non-hazardous oil spilled into the St. John River on Thursday. (NB Power)

An oil spill at the Mactaquac hydro dam on Thursday released between 19 and 38 litres of teresso 32 oil into the St. John River and more than 2,050 litres at the NB Power station.

According to an NB Power environmental contingency report, the spill alarm went off at 2:44 a.m. Thursday at one of the station's units and the pump was shut off and oil release stopped about 15 minutes later.

A cleanup was scheduled on site for 7 a.m.

"A licenced cleanup contractor responded immediately and recovered as much of the product as possible from the water," said Deb Nobes, a spokesperson for NB Power.

Even minor spills like this, it's devastating to the river.- Ron Tremblay, Wolastoq Grand Council

​Nobes said the spill happened during maintenance and teresso 32 oil, which is used as a lubricant, is considered to be non-hazardous and biodegradable.

A safety description of the product says excessive exposure may result in eye, skin or respiratory irritation.

The spill was reported to regulators and First Nations, according to NB Power.

Ron Tremblay, the grand chief of the Wolastoq Grand Council, said the spill demonstrates why the dam should be dismantled.

The Crown corporation is exploring options on whether to extend the life of the current dam beyond 2030, or remove the dam and allow the river to return to its natural state. 

"Even minor spills like this, it's devastating to the river ... and our people who live down river," said Tremblay.

The last reported oil spill at Mactaquac dam happened in December 2015.