Slocan Valley residents demand water test results
Data belongs to company responsible for spill, not health authority
People in the Slocan Valley say they are frustrated that officials will not release the results of water tests after last month's jet fuel spill, saying the data belongs to the company responsible for the spill.
Some residents say their water still smells of jet fuel, even after the Interior Health Authority (IHA) lifted all drinking water restrictions.
"There are still remaining fuel pockets showing up in areas that have been OK'd for swimming and drinking and irrigation," says Austin Greengrass.
Greengrass is one of several people wondering why the province lifted a drinking water ban so quickly after a tanker truck spilled 35,000 litres of jet fuel into Lemon Creek in late July.
"The tension in the valley, part of it is created from the fact that none of us has been able to get accurate laboratory results from any of the sampling that has been done," says Greengrass.
An IHA spokesperson says he can't release water testing data because it belongs to the company responsible for the fuel spill, Executive Flight Centre, and not the health authority.
Dr. Andrew Larder, senior medical health officer for the IHA based in Kelowna, says he lifted the 'do not use' orders even though there is still some fuel in the water.
"I was satisfied that the amounts were relatively small and that they were localized in particular places, and that the cleanup process would contain that material [which] represents a very low health risk, and was not a justification for maintaining the generalized 'do not use' order," Larder said.
"I actually lifted the order in a stepwise fashion only as the information became available for each section of the river, so I certainly feel that it was appropriate to lift it," Larder added.
But, Larder says, people still need to be careful, and not use water if it smells of jet fuel.
Greengrass says he's worried people in the valley will be forced to test their drinking water themselves to ensure it is safe.
Government and cleanup crews are scaling back their operations in the valley far too quickly after last month's fuel spill, he adds.
Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy also says she has concerns about how the clean up in the Slocan Valley is being handled.
"People are saying … they want to have continued access to potable water [at community help centres], that they want to see ongoing monitoring — which is what I understand is going to happen — but also want to ensure that the cleanup is done appropriately before anybody leaves," Conroy said.
The NDP MLA says she is meeting with officials with the Central Kootenay Regional District to try to resolve some of these issues.
In the meantime, Winlaw resident Robert Kirk has launched a lawsuit against the Province of British Columbia and Executive Flight Centre in the wake of the spill.
The defendants have until the end of the month to file their response. None of the claims have been proven in court.
With files from the CBC’s Chris Walker, Brady Strachan and David French