May 20, 2009
Sunken fuel truck recovered from Robson Bight

A fuel truck that could contain up to 10,000 of litres of diesel has finally been raised from the waters of Robson Bight Ecological Reserve off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.

The sunken truck was first sealed in a large yellow container to ensure no fuel would escape as it rose from its resting place 350 metres below the surface. It was one of a number of pieces of logging equipment that tipped off a barge being towed through the protected waters of the orca habitat in August 2007 and sank to the bottom relatively intact.

The tank will next be tested to determine whether fuel leaked during the nearly two years it spent underwater. Another container filled with an estimated 1,200 litres of hydraulic oil was raised from the sea floor on May 16.

A representative of the Living Oceans Society, said the group was pleased the federal and provincial governments paid for the recovery operation, after they initially refused to mount the operation because of the costs.

The accident was entirely preventable and the company responsible should ultimately have to pay for the recovery. Changes have been called for in Transport Canada regulations to prevent future accidents.

"What we found out in the almost two years since this accident, is that tie-downs on barges are not a mandatory requirement in British Columbia, so all the equipment and chemicals and hydrocarbons getting moved around on the coast are not even tied down."

Prosecutors laid charges against Chemainus-based logging contractor Ted LeRoy Trucking, Campbell River's Gowlland Towing and the skipper of the tugboat Kathy L in July 2008.

The waters of Robson Bight were made into an ecological reserve in 1982 to protect the gravel and rock seafloor that orcas rub against during their yearly summer visits.