North

NTCL barge that ran aground near Fort Simpson may have spilled gasoline

A punctured Northern Transportation Company Limited (NTCL) barge may have spilled gasoline into the Mackenzie River, and authorities say they weren't notified by the shipping company until a week after the incident.

Shipping company says no gasoline spilled, Transport Canada conducting compliance investigation

An NTCL barge ran aground near Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, which caused a limited amount of gasoline to leak into the Mackenzie River, according to the Canadian Coast Guard. (CBC)

A punctured Northern Transportation Company Limited (NTCL) barge may have spilled gasoline into the Mackenzie River, and authorities say they weren't notified by the shipping company until a week after the incident.

According to the Canadian Coast Guard, an NTCL barge grounded near Fort Simpson on its way back from a Northern delivery on July 27.

Mo Zadeh, the vice president of operation for NTCL, said that the bottom of a barge was punctured, and that no gasoline escaped.

That, however, conflicts with a report the Coast Guard said it received from NTCL, which said that a limited amount of gasoline was released.

"A Northern Transportation Company Ltd. barge grounded at Rabbit Skin River on July 27, 2015," said Dan Bate, the communications officer for the Canadian Coast Guard, in an e-mail, "releasing a limited amount of gasoline and some non-recoverable sheening, which later evaporated."

A small amount of non-recoverable fuel that spilled out of the barge evaporated before the incident was reported, according to Bate, and "therefore, no environmental response action took place."

Zadeh confirmed to CBC that the barge was damaged, but said no fuel escaped. According to Zadeh, water rushing into the barge kept the fuel inside, and residual fuel was pumped into another barge, before the damaged craft was moved to Hay River and taken out of the water.
'A leak is a leak,' said Dehcho First Nations Grand Chief Herb Norwegian. 'It doesn't matter if it's a dribble, or an ocean of oil that's guzzling out. It's still a leak.' (CBC)

Herb Norwegian, the grand chief of the Dehcho First Nations, said that it doesn't matter how much gasoline ended up spilling into the river — any spill is a problem.

"A leak is a leak," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's a dribble, or an ocean of oil that's guzzling out. It's still a leak, and we need to stand firm on that interpretation and so yeah, it should have been reported right away."

Norwegian added that water levels on the river are at an all-time low, and suggested barge activity should stop until the river rises again.

Report received over a week late

According to NTCL, both the Canadian Coast Guard and Transport Canada were notified of the barge running aground the day following the incident.

However, both authorities say they were made aware over a week later, on August 5th, with the Coast Guard adding that it initially found out from a third party.

Amber Wonko, a regional communications officer from Transport Canada, said that they were "made aware of the incident on August 5, 2015.

"We received the written report of the incident from the Northern Transportation Company Ltd (NTCL) on August 16, 2015," said Wonko in an e-mail.

Under the Canada Shipping Act, said Wonko, marine incidents or accidents are to be reported immediately to Transport Canada by vessel operators or owners, and a written report is to be provided within 24 hours, "or as soon as possible thereafter."

Coast Guard say they've met with NTCL to remind them of appropriate reporting procedures, while Transport Canada will be conducting a compliance inspection into the shipping company, according to Wonko.

"If Transport Canada identifies non-compliance with the [Canada Shipping Act] or the [Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act] , we will take the appropriate action," said Wonko. "As the matter is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

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