The Port Alberni RCMP and City of Port Alberni are investigating an oil spill that occurred during the week of Oct. 26 at McLean Mill National Historic Site.
City personnel found that an undetermined amount of Bunker C oil had been released from a rail tank car on site, according to a press release. Early investigation into the cause of this incident indicated that the oil was released through a previously locked valve that was found to be in the ‘open’ position. How that valve came to be opened is currently being investigated by the R.C.M.P.
The incident has been reported to the Ministry of Environment, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District.
The rail tank car had been located on a rail siding near the eastern property boundary. It had been used to store fuel for the No. 7 steam engine that hasn’t operated between the city and McLean Mill for the past two years.
Bunker C oil is the residual oil left over after the lighter, more volatile products such as gasoline, diesel and natural gas are distilled out of crude oil. Bunker C is a heavy oil commonly used by freighters. The oil that was released from the rail tank car at McLean Mill was approximately 93 percent Bunker C oil and 7 percent diesel fuel, according to the city.
City staff have mobilized several contractors and professional consultant firms in order to mitigate the environmental impact. Based on preliminary inspection reports from David Clough of D.R. Clough Consulting “it would appear that fuel spill and environmental damage was limited to the railway corridor and dip tank area. At this stage of the investigation based on the visual observations by on-site professionals, there appears to be no escape into surface waters.”
The rail tank car has since been removed from the McLean Mill site and contractors are currently working to remove the contaminated rail ties and ballast. Consultants are working to determine an estimate of the volume released. At present, the site is stable and contained.