British Columbia

B.C. oil leak could spur clean-up protocol change

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell says he's not opposed to changing the protocols specifying how the public should be notified about environmental incidents.

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell says he's not opposed to changing the protocols specifying how the public should be notified about environmental incidents.

Campbell's comments came in the wake of an oil and gas leak a Burnaby, B.C., refinery owned by Chevron Canada Ltd. A mix of gas, oil and diesel continues to seep into Burrard Inlet from the refinery, nearly a month after the leak was first discovered.

"Our emergency preparedness environment officers are there," Campbell said in Vancouver Friday. "We're going to do everything we can to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Campbell said Chevron appeared to be following existing protocols on dealing with spills and other incidents that could affect the environment, but the company has come under fire from residents and community leaders for waiting a month before informing the public about the seepage.

"If we can improve how we do … these processes and protocols in the future, we're glad to look at that," Campbell said.

A routine inspection by workers in April revealed a mix of gas, oil and diesel in a trench near the refinery, located east of Vancouver, and an oily sheen on a small section of beach on the shores of the saltwater inlet.

Bill Williams, chief of the Squamish First Nation, first heard about the incident when it was reported by CBC Radio on Thursday morning.

Williams said the band should have been told about the leak sooner because part of the Squamish territory sits to the west of the refinery along the Burrard Inlet.

"When did it happen? Do you know how long it's been going on and what is the volume now leaking into the Burrard Inlet?" he said.

"Why aren't they forthcoming with such important information? Why aren't we included in the dialogue of making sure it doesn't happen?"

Oil damaging sacred sites, Squamish say

Williams said band members want a tour of the affected sites at the Chevron refinery to see for themselves what kind of contamination may have occurred.

"The obvious concern of any oil slick is the killing of wildlife, the damaging of shorelines in our interests," he said. "It's damaging the sacred sites along the shorelines."

Chevron Canada has been in touch with the Tsleil-Watuth First Nation directly across the water as it tries to contain and clean the leak.

The company has also been trying to answer outstanding questions, all of which are on the minds of nearby residents like David McLellan.

McLellan wants to know how long the substance has been leaking into the inlet and what the potential damage could be.

"It certainly leads to questions in my mind as to why there was a delay [and] whether or not the entirety of the situation has been presented to the community," he said.

The company is now being monitored by the provincial Environment Ministry as it tries to contain the seepage and determine where it's coming from.

Officials with the ministry say they don't believe the seepage is large enough to be a public safety risk.