British Columbia

Lemon Creek fuel spill charges stayed by federal prosecutors

The federal government has halted charges in the case of a fuel spill in the Slocan Valley while it waits for a report on the 2013 spill.

Tanker truck spilled 33,000 litres of jet fuel into the Slocan Valley creek in 2013

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

The federal Crown has stayed a charge laid in the Slocan Valley fuel spill, just days after taking over the prosecution from a private citizen who launched the case.

Last year, West Kootenay resident Marilyn Burgoon brought her own charge under the Fisheries Act against both the B.C. government and Executive Flight Fuel Services Ltd, which owned the tanker truck.

She launched the case because she felt the government was taking too long to act, following the 2013 fuel spill.

The charge was approved by a provincial court judge last November, but this week the federal Crown took over the prosecution, and then quickly stayed the charge.

The truck was transporting fuel for helicopters fighting a nearby forest fire on July 25, 2013, when it rolled into Lemon Creek after heading up an unmaintained forestry road that couldn't support its weight.

The 33,000 litres of jet fuel discharged into the creek entered the Slocan and Kootenay Rivers, killing fish and harming the aquatic ecology, according to court documents filed by Burgoon.

Chief federal prosecutor Todd Gerhart said the Crown expects to receive an environmental report in the next few months and will then decide whether or not to reactivate the charge or lay any new charges.

"The reason for that is to allow the ongoing investigation to be completed. And then at that point that full investigation can be reviewed and a charge approval decision can be made."

But the move has sidelined Marilyn Burgoon, according to her lawyer Lelina Lysenko.

"That's a little bit unfortunate because if they choose not to lay new charges, then in my opinion there will be a lack of accountability to the public," said Lysenko.

Burgoon and her legal counsel were supported by the West Coast Environmental Law Dispute Resolution Fund.

In December 2013, Executive Flight Fuel Services claimed, in response to a separate lawsuit, that it should not be held liable for the accident because it received poor directions to its delivery point from the province.


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