Refinery owner apologizes for oil leak from Come by Chance

North Atlantic Refining has apologized for a leak of 10 barrels of oil from the Come By Chance refinery, and says it is confident the oil is contained to an area southwest of Arnold's Cove.

Worry that leak could hurt fish, seabirds

The manager of the Come by Chance oil refinery says the refinery faces several financial pressures. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

North Atlantic Refining has apologized for a leak of 10 barrels of oil from the Come By Chance refinery, and says it is confident the oil is contained to an area southwest of Arnold's Cove.

However, an environmentalist and a fisherman are both raising concerns about the impact of the leak on wildlife in Placentia Bay.  

North Atlantic says the leak was stopped within an hour of the discovery Monday and the company's response team deployed a containment boom and immediately started a cleanup.

According to Jamie Beach, the refinery's vice president of health, safety and environment, the spill is estimated at about 10 barrels of light crude and leaked out of a three inch pipe.

He said the company is upset that the leak happened, and is committed to taking steps to make sure it never happens again.

North Atlantic 'disappointed' at spill

"We are extremely and very disappointed that this has happened. We apologize to the community for this happening," he said on Thursday.

"We need to find out exactly what happened here and what led to this."

Beach said  Eastern Canada Response Corporation (ECRC) crews are looking after the cleanup on the shores of Bordeaux, as part of a seven day plan which could be extended if necessary.

He said models predicted that the oil would "stay together" and end up exactly where it did, so North Atlantic is "quite confident" that the extent of the oil is in Bordeaux, about six kolometres southwest of the refinery.

Concerns about birds, fish

"It's concerning regardless, and there seems to be something not right there with the monitoring or the amount of monitoring," said environmentalist Stan Tobin, who lives in nearby Ship Cove. 

Stan Tobin says the spill should be monitored after clean up is complete.

"That's a pretty critical time, any kind of transfer of product from land to a vessel or vice versa it's a dangerous time," Tobin told CBC's St. John's Morning Show Thursday.

He also said that mechanical containment and cleanup equipment haven't improved much in the past 25 years.

"You know in open seas worldwide there's a dismal five to 10 per cent of a total spill recovered by that kind of equipment so I guess the best response is prevention."

'It makes all hands nervous'

Randy Emberly lives in Southern Harbour and was fishing very near the North Atlantic refinery Tuesday. 

"It's makes all hands nervous when you hears tell of oil being in the water," Emberly told CBC's The Broadcast.

He didn't notice any oil on the water or a containment boom but does remember seeing crews working near the dock, or 'jetty' and said the water was bubbling around the area.

"I don't know if the leak was there and was just boiling up, we never seen no oil but we could see something boiling in the water."

Emberly has been fishing for about 38 years and is not aware of any protocol that would inform fishermen of incidents,but said he would have appreciated knowing about the oil spill that could have damaged his fishery.

Fatal impact

Stan Tobin said this is perhaps the worst time for an oil spill to happen.

He said there are many species of seabirds that winter in Placentia Bay, mostly diving birds like Murres, who are vulnerable during the winter months.

It doesn't take a lot of oil on a birds feather this time of year to be fatal, a couple of spoonfuls and it's game over after a couple of weeks.- Stan Tobin

Tobin also said that seabirds seem to be drawn to an oil slick. He believes they may see it as a calm spot in a rough sea or identify it as a possible food source.

"It doesn't take a lot of oil on a bird's feather this time of year to be fatal, a couple of spoonfuls and it's game over after a couple of weeks."

Tobin surveys beaches in the area every week and said it would probably take a week to know if any birds have been affected.

North Atlantic says it will provide updates as the clean-up work continues.


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