‘Very aggressive approach’ taken to clean up diesel spill in Smiths Falls section of Rideau Canal

Smiths Falls fire Chief Rick Chesebrough, in a report to council on Monday, May 10, credited the town's fire department and Tomlinson Environmental Services, which was contracted by Le Boat, for a “very aggressive approach” to a diesel spill containment and cleanup.

The spill stemmed from a Le Boat vessel on May 6.

In an interview with this paper on Tuesday, May 11, Chesebrough confirmed that Tomlinson was still at Victoria Park working to clean up near the finger docks where the company had indicated sticks and debris had contained pockets of diesel in that area. Chesebrough anticipated this would be the last day Tomlinson would be on site.

Tomlinson Environmental Services first began to clean up the spill on Friday, May 7 — the day after the spill. Smiths Falls firefighters were the first to respond to the incident on May 6.

Chesebrough said the fire department took “immediate and very quick response” in deploying the equipment to contain the spill and immediately notified the province’s Spills Action Centre and the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre and the Ministry of Environment (MOE), along with Canadian Coast Guard and Parks Canada — which are actively involved in overseeing the cleanup.

Chesebrough emphasized that the role of the fire department is to contain the spill, not to clean it up.

“It’s the responsibility of the individuals, where the spill originated, to deal with the situation,” he said.

Chesebrough said the fire department will be submitting an invoice to Le Boat for the material that was used for the vehicle response and staffing costs associated with the call.

Chesebrough reported that management from Le Boat had immediately contacted Tomlinson who arrived on the evening of Thursday, May 6, and assessed the situation. They returned Friday morning to start cleanup efforts.

Chesebrough emphasized that the release of about 100 litres of mixed diesel and water, stemming from a water line that was inadvertently placed into the diesel tank, was accidental. The MOE has confirmed approximately 30 to 40 litres of diesel was spilled from the boat.

The fire chief reassured residents that at no time was the municipal water system compromised.

Chesebrough said Tomlinson monitored the lower basin, and at no time did they detect, or have confirmation, that the fuel had leaked through the locks.

Chesebrough said the agencies involved will review policies and procedures and make recommendations on how to prevent future similar situations and to ensure that there are appropriate safety protocols in place.

Chesebrough reported that he’s dealt with the base manager from Le Boat who has indicated that the company is taking “a very proactive approach.” Chesebrough reported that Le Boat is now going to outfit its boats with booms and socks, as opposed to storing them on land. Chesebrough said the company is going to have information posted within the boats and all the management staff and staff that work with the company are well-versed on the emergency procedures.

The MOE reported on Tuesday, May 11, that since the incident and environmental response occurred within the Rideau Canal, it falls within the jurisdiction of the Canadian Coast Guard and Parks Canada. Ministry staff are currently reviewing the information reported to date and determining whether any further involvement by the ministry is necessary.

This newspaper is still awaiting a response from Parks Canada.

Le Boat has also been contacted for this story, but the company did not responded before deadline.

In a previous statement received by Lisa McLean, Le Boat's sales and marketing manager for North America and Latin America, the company says it's reviewing internal policies and procedures.

"Le Boat takes the protection of the Rideau waterway and the environment very seriously," said McLean. "We are working closely with various government agencies and partners to contain and clean up the spill."

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