An excavator works to remove contaminated soil from McLean Mill on Nov. 8. (PHOTO COURTESY SUSAN ROTH)

An excavator works to remove contaminated soil from McLean Mill on Nov. 8. (PHOTO COURTESY SUSAN ROTH)

McLean Mill clean-up expected to cost more than $100,000

City continues to mop up after mysterious oil leak at heritage site

The City of Port Alberni believes that a valve on a rail tank car that caused an oil spill at McLean Mill last week was intentionally opened, although the case is still under investigation.

The city is still cleaning up after a rail tank car was found to be leaking bunker oil in the rail yard at McLean Mill National Historic Site. Sometime prior to Oct. 26, the valve on the rail tank car was opened, releasing a “significant amount” of Bunker C oil onto the ground, according to City CAO Tim Pley.

“We believe the valve to have been opened intentionally,” said Pley during a council meeting on Monday, Nov. 9. “We’re not sure what the intent was. We’re told the valve was in a closed position, possibly even locked with a chain. It’s quite concerning that the incident occurred.”

McLean Mill has a live-in caretaker, but no security cameras in that portion of the site.

“If anybody has seen anything or heard anything, I encourage them to call the RCMP,” said Pley.

Play added that the city doesn’t know how much oil was in the tank, but believed it to be “several thousand” litres.

READ MORE: Oil spill at McLean Mill contained

The city responded “quickly” to stop the growth and spread of the leak, and hired multiple contractors and consultants to clean up the spill, said Pley. The city has also initiated an insurance claim and is “hopeful” that the costs of clean up will be recovered.

The costs are expected to be in excess of $100,000, said Pley.

“We think we’re putting in between $20,000 and $30,000 a day,” he added.

The rail tank car, which was located on a rail siding near the eastern property boundary, was storing fuel for the No. 7 steam engine, although the steam engine has not been operating for the past two years.

Over the past few years, said Pley, the city has been working to identify hazards on the mill site and mitigate them. In 2019, TerraWest Environmental Ltd. conducted an environmental review of the site under direction of the city. Pley said that the city specifically asked TerraWest to look at the rail tank car because of some “staining” that was observed beneath the car, although this was unrelated to the spill discovered on Oct. 26. Pley added that there had been a catchment tray underneath the rail car, used by operators to control any dripping or spillage, which may have been where this staining came from.

Councillor Ron Corbeil asked on Monday if there are any other hazards on the site. Pley confirmed that another rail tank, located closer to the mill, was also identified in the TerraWest assessment.

“We are right now undertaking prices to see what it would cost to have that tanker removed from the site as well,” he said.

“The mill site is, in my opinion, a lot safer and in better condition this year than it was this time last year,” said Pley. “But obviously we did not act to mitigate this risk, and now we’re responding to this incident.

“I think this maybe causes us to look at all our properties, not just McLean Mill, and identify what are some of the risks that we are continuing to be responsible for. We can put our minds to mitigating those risks proactively.”

Mayor Sharie Minions said it was “disappointing” to hear that the valve had been opened.

“Whether that’s carelessness, with somebody not closing it after, or intention, this is money that we all end up paying as city taxpayers,” said Minions.



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

McLean Mill

Just Posted

Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming moves to the role of transportation minister in the NDP’s new cabinet. (B.C. government file photo)
Vancouver Island MLAs claim key roles in new cabinet

Key ministries headed by veteran and rookie Island MLAs in Horgan’s new team

Ladysmith’s 1st Avenue will be lit up until January 15. (Cole Schisler photo)
Ladysmith’s 1st Avenue all aglow

Although the tradition Light Up this year was cancelled, folks can still enjoy the holiday lights

Christmas will look a bit different in Cumberland this year, not only because of COVID restrictions but due to changes from BC Hydro about hanging decorations on the poles. Record file photo
Snowflakes left out in the cold for Island town

Holiday season tradition a no-go for Cumberland’s power poles

Karl Ablack, chair of the Port Renfrew Recovery Task Force, says visitors should steer clear of the community after the second wave of COVID has begun to hit across the province. (Black Press Media file photo)
Port Renfrew, Pacheedaht First Nation asks visitors to steer clear of community again

Tight-knit community of 400 has yet to report single case of COVID

The old home at 785 Island Rd. is coming down as the developer was unable to find a feasible business case to save it. (Black Press Media File Photo)
With no takers to move old Oak Bay home, teardown begins

‘We tried a last hurrah,’ developer says

Penny Hart is emotional outside the Saanich Police Department as she pleads for helpt to find her son Sean Hart last seen Nov. 6 at a health institution in Saanich. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: Mother of missing Saanich man begs public to help find her son

Sean Hart last seen leaving Saanich mental health facility Nov. 6

Police in Nanaimo are looking for a suspect who wore a black-and-white striped hoodie and rode a yellow mountain bike when he allegedly stole three children’s backpacks from a daycare facility. (Photo submitted)
VIDEO: Thief steals children’s backpacks from Nanaimo daycare

Suspect rode a yellow mountain bike and made off with backpacks hanging on fence

The Klahoose First Nation village on Cortes Island is under lockdown until further notice due to a positive COVID-19 test. Photo courtesy Kevin Peacey.
Cortes Island First Nation community locked down due to positive COVID-19 test

Klahoose First Nation has had one positive test, one other potential case

North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney has spoken out about some veterans losing their Dimished Earning Capacity income. (Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror photo)
Blaney pens letter to minister about veteran supports

Concerned about veterans losing some income

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
B.C. mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby now at home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

No face-offs until at least Dec. 8 after the BCHL shuts down pre-sesason play. (Citizen file)
BCHL cancels remainder of the pre-season

Island teams see their exhibition season cut short

Arthur Topham has been sentenced to one month of house arrest and three years of probation after breaching the terms of his probation. Topham was convicted of promoting hate against Jewish people in 2015. (Photo submitted)
Quesnel man convicted for anti-Semitic website sentenced to house arrest for probation breach

Arthur Topham was convicted of breaching probation following his 2017 sentence for promoting hatred

Langley School District's board office. (Langley Advance Times files)
‘Sick Out’ aims to pressure B.C. schools over masks, class sizes

Parents from Langley and Surrey are worried about COVID safety in classrooms

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

Most Read