Vancouver Harbour oil spill could cover local beaches quickly
What would happen if a tanker spilled oil in Vancouver Harbour? With Kinder Morgan filing on Monday (December 16) an application with the National Energy Board to twin its Trans Mountain oil pipeline, it's an important question.
In October, the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and the Georgia Strait Alliance released drift cards in Burrard Inlet and other locations along the oil tanker route from Vancouver and tracked their spread. This week, the organizations issued the preliminary results of their Salish Sea Drift Card Study.
In Burrard Inlet, drift cards were dropped in the Second Narrows and off Point Grey. Let's look at what happened to the 200 cards released near Point Grey:
Within the first few days, 50% of the cards had already been recovered from beaches in English Bay and North Vancouver. After the first few days, cards recoveries continued along beaches in Kitsilano and North Vancouver, indicating that the cards were still circulating within Burrard Inlet. Three weeks later, one card was recovered near Vancouver airport, and Nov. 22nd and 23rd saw recoveries in Boundary Bay and on Orcas Island, indicating that the remaining cards had likely moved out of Burrard Inlet and into the Gulf/San Juan Islands. The furthest card recovered from this drop was on Orcas Island, about one month after the initial drop, a net distance of approximately 80 km.
This indicates that an oil spill in Burrard Inlet could blanket the beaches of Vancouver and the North Shore within the first few days. Over the coming weeks, oil could continue to wash up on local beaches, and reach Boundary Bay, the Gulf Islands, and the San Juan Islands.
Drift cards dropped in the Straight of Georgia and Gulf Islands actually spread more quickly and farther than the cards released in Burrard Inlet. Within a few weeks, some cards had travelled 200 to 300 kilometres.
The organizations' preliminary report concludes: "It is likely that much of the south coast of Vancouver Island from Sidney to Tofino, the San Juans, the southern Gulf Islands, and the north coast of the Washington’s Olympic Peninsula would be impacted by oil from a spill at any of these locations."