Diesel spill fouls bay in northern Haida Gwaii

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      A forestry company has confirmed that a diesel oil spill took place in Haida Gwaii's Dinan Bay (Diinan Kahlii) during the early morning of April 22.

      On April 23, Taan Forest—a wholly owned subsidiary of the Haida Enterprise Corporation (HaiCo)—announced in a release that 4,500 litres of diesel fuel had leaked from a company barge into the ocean near the mouth of the bay after a valve malfunction involving a diesel generator.

      Dinan Bay is in Masset Inlet on Graham Island, Haida Gwaii's largest and most northerly island.

      The Haida Nation-owned company said the spill happened between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m on April 22.

      Taan Forest noted that company representatives were working with the B.C. Environment Ministry, the coast guard, and the Council of the Haida Nation.

      It added that oil booms and sorbent pads were utilized as soon as the spill was noticed and that biologists would be called in to determine impacts on marine life.

      Representatives of Taan were not available when the Straight attempred to call on April 24.

      In an updated statement released Friday afternoon (April 24), Taan reported that cleanup efforts and water, soil, and marine-life sampling continued today.

      The company estimated that about two-thirds of the oil had "dissipated and evaporated" and that "current modeling shows that the full plume is expected to last until approximately April 26, 2020."

      According to the U.S.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), diesel fuel is lighter than water and cannot sink to the seafloor.

      In a fact sheet, the NOAA said: "Over 90% of the diesel in a small spill incident into the marine environment is either evaporated or naturally dispersed into the water column in time frames of a couple of hours to a couple of days."

      And although diesel fuel is highly toxic to marine organisms, including fish, and some diesel after a spill in open water might enter the water column as a result of wave and wind action, the NOAA said it poses little threat to marine life.

      "In terms of toxicity to water-column organisms, diesel is considered to be one of the most acutely toxic oil types. Fish, invertebrates and seaweed that come in direct contact with a diesel spill may be killed. However, small spills in open water are so rapidly diluted that fish kills have never been reported. Fish kills have been reported for small spills in confined, shallow water."