Disastrous Jet Fuel Spill in British Columbia

     VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) – “Every blade of grass will have to be washed by hand” for miles around after a tanker truck flipped and spilled 35,000 liters of jet fuel into “pristine bodies” of drinking water, Canadian property owners claim in a class action.
     Lead plaintiff Robert George Kirk claims the owners of the truck, defendants Executive Flight Centre Developments and Executive Flight Centre Fuel Services, contaminated his property downstream from the spill.
     The tanker was on a Forest Service road by mistake on its way to a gravel pit where the British Columbia government was running a staging area to fight a forest fire. When the driver turned around, the truck went off the road and tumbled into Lemon Creek, which runs into the Slocan River.
     The class claims the driver was inexperienced and unfamiliar with the area, and that the provincial government failed to properly maintain the route.
     The province and the Minister of Forests also are defendants, in the lawsuit in British Columbia Supreme Court.
     Officials evacuated people in a 2-mile radius around the July 26 accident, and issued a “do not use” order on the contaminated bodies of water, which many surrounding communities use to drink. The jet fuel vapor contains carcinogenic benzene, and the “sludge” from the spill contains heavy metals and other highly toxic materials, according to the lawsuit.
     “Following the spill, a gas plume of airborne vapour particles disseminated throughout the vicinity of Lemon Creek, the Slocan valley and the Kootenay River, coming into contact with individuals, wildlife, livestock, and domestic and agricultural premises … and causing physical symptoms in local residents, workers and tourists including burning eyes, sore throats, headaches, respiratory distress and other symptoms of ill health,” the complaint states.
     “Following the spill, the sludge floated on the waterways of Lemon Creek, the Slocan River and the Kootenay River, adhering to sediment, penetrating stream and river banks and contaminating wetlands, gardens, livestock feeding grounds, agricultural grounds, wells, surface water sources, irrigation systems, laundry machines, plumbing systems and septic fields.”
     The spill affected nearly 50 miles of shoreline and more than 6 square miles of swampland.
     “In order to remediate the contamination, every blade of grass will have to be washed by hand with absorbent material which itself will have to be safely removed from the environment. It will take at least six years to remediate the contamination,” the complaint states. “In some cases, the contamination has eliminated the sole source of potable water on a property and effectively rendered that property practically incapable of being sold or remortgaged.”
     Kirk claims he woke up on July 27 on his 51-acre property, his house a few dozen feet from the Slocan River, with a headache, a sore throat and a nasty cough.
     “In his retirement, Kirk has made a daily habit of walking his property, enjoying the beavers, ducks, frogs, turtles, muskrats, blue herons, osprey and various other birds … that have made a nesting ground and habitat out of his marshland,” the complaint states.
     “Since the spill, Kirk has observed the complete absence of wildlife from his property, except for a duck and a blue heron that have turned up dead. Fuel is adhering to grass on the riparian bank of his property, rendering it a lethal habitat for wildlife.”
     The class is represented by David M. Aaron of Nelson, B.C.

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