Sudbury

Algoma Public Health warns people not to drink water from St. Mary's River after oil spill

Algoma Public Health is warning people who draw water directly from the St. Mary's River or who have a well near the shore not to drink the water due to an oil spill.

Health unit also warns against swimming, kayaking or fishing in the river

Algoma Public Health is warning those who take water from the St. Mary's River downstream of the Algoma steel mill not to consume it or bathe in it. (Erik White/CBC)

Algoma Public Health is warning people who draw water directly from the St. Mary's River or who have a well near the shore not to drink the water due to an oil spill.

The spill does not affect the Sault Ste. Marie municipal drinking water system.

The health unit says if your drinking water intake is located east (or downstream) of the Algoma steel mill and the Great Lakes Power plant, there is a risk of contamination.

It is warning people to not drink or bathe in the water, or go swimming, kayaking, or fishing in the river. 

Taking the spill seriously

Ministry of the Environment spokesperson Gary Wheeler told CBC News in an email that the ministry is taking the oil spill "very seriously."

Wheeler said the volume of oil spilled into St. Mary's River was still unknown, as of Friday afternoon. 

"Most of the oil spilled to ground on Algoma Steel's property," Wheeler said. "Some of the oil entered Algoma Steel's wastewater treatment plant where it was then discharged to the river."

He said Algoma Steel has deployed contractors to contain the spill with absorbent booms on the river.

The U.S. Coast Guard also has vessels in the area and has sent out drones to assess the extent of the spill downstream, Wheeler said.

He added that the ministry is "requiring that Algoma Steel assess the extent of the spill and prepare clean-up and monitoring plans to address and assess any short and long-term impacts to the river."

The ministry has also confirmed the oil spilled was an industrial lubricant called 460 gear oil.

 The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians has notified its members that they should find alternative sources of water for drinking and cooking if they are on Sugar Island.

Anyone who sees signs of oil contamination, up to and including Echo Bay, should call the Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060.

For more details, read the advisory here.

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