Mechanical error is being blamed for a recent fuel spill at one of Canada's North Warning System sites on southern Baffin Island in Nunavut.

About 14,000 litres of jet fuel spilled over a week ago on Brevoort Island, located near the mouth of Cumberland Sound, according to Nasittuq Corp., which operates a North Warning System site on the island for the federal Defence Department.

Brevoort Island, Nunavut

Shifting ice in a containment berm appears to have caused a crack where the fuel pipe enters the tank, according to Robert Champagne, Nasittuq's senior manager of maintenance.

About 10,000 litres of the spilled fuel may have flowed directly into the waters off southern Baffin Island, but Champagne said cleanup efforts on the water have been hampered by six-metre ocean swells.

"We didn't have a boat to be able to lay down the booms in the water and the coast guard, based on their assessment of the situation, didn't think it would be effective anyway," he told CBC News on Monday.

"Hopefully there is no long-term or short-term effects on the wildlife."

Champagne said spills of any size are not good, but crews are cleaning up the fuel that spilled on the land.

Since the spilled fuel is refined fuel, it should break down more easily in the water, he added.

Environment Canada officials are on Brevoort Island this week to investigate the spill. Champagne said Nasittuq could face penalties ranging from a simple warning to prosecution.

Champagne said the recent spill is the second at the North Warning System site in recent years, but the causes of both spills are "completely different."

"In a way, you can say it was coincidence that these two spills occurred at the same site," he said. "But the causes — one was a mechanical failure, the other one was a operational failure — were different."