What An Oil Spill Could Do To Vancouver

By Roy L Hales


Several Vancouver residents “dropped dead” this morning. People walking along the seawall, near Davie and Denman, had to go around the bodies. English Bay’s Die-in is a visual illustration of what an oil spill could do to Vancouver.

During the First Hour

According to Sierra Club BC’s climate and energy campaigner Larissa Stendie, “The proposed Trans Mountain pipeline poses a drastic threat to our health and safety. Within the first hour of an oil spill as many as one million people in this area could be impacted by airborne toxins, with 133,000 heading to hospital.”

A report prepared for Metro Vancouver suggests the greatest threat to human health would occur during the first hour after a spill.

Four Trial Areas

English Bay was one of four areas that Levelton Consulting Ltd. studied,  using the Protective Action Criteria developed by the US Department of Energy’s emergency response.

They  studied the possible impacts of a 8,000m3 spill at Westridge terminal, in Burnaby, or a 16,000m3 spill at First Narrows, Second Narrows or English Bay.

This is only a fraction of the amount Aframax tankers coming out of Burrard Inlet will carry , if Kinder Morgan’s project goes forward. Some of these tankers carry  as much as 120,000 m3.

Some people on the beach were feeling unwell after the grain ship Marathassa spilled only about 2.8m3 into English Bay last April.

The Effects Of Benzene

While there are dozens of toxins in diluted bitumen, Levelton’s study primarily focused on the effects of benzene.

Unfortunately there are too many variables to come up with hard answers. These include 8,760 possible meteorological scenarios.

Levelton’s “worst-case” scenarios took place near Stanley Park, Lions Gate Bridge, Second Narrows Bridge, and areas over water. This is where possible fatalities were reported.

There were serious health issues at every one of the four trial locations.

“We’re talking about serious and irreversible effects from breathing in toxic fumes as well as the devastating long-term health problems associated with exposures from oil spills. The people of Metro Vancouver should not be exposed to these risks,” said Stendie, in a press release.

Submitted to the NEB

Levelton’s report was commissioned by Metro Vancouver and Tsleil Waututh Nation and submitted as evidence to the National Energy Board.

Sierra Club BC’s press release continues:

“Our concerns for an oil spill are not addressed by the NEB’s conditions released this week,” said Charlene Aleck, Elected Councillor of Tsleil Waututh Nation. “We thank Sierra Club BC for heightening the public’s awareness. It’s an honour to stand shoulder to shoulder in this fight.”

“The provincial government must withdraw from the NEB’s review and conduct its own review—one that not only takes into account spill risks, but also includes a test to examine the climate impacts of the project,” said Stendie.

The event was followed by a city-wide petition drive.

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