Oil Cube Lifted out of Robson Bight 'Cleanly'

$2.5M salvage operation underway after barged tipped in August 2007

Picture: CTV News

Observers on a barge in Robson Bight ecological reserve held their breath yesterday afternoon as a metal cube containing 1,400 litres of hydraulic oil was carefully pulled to the surface. "There was a lot of anticipation when the cube finally broke the surface, but the crew were very calm and professional, which helped," said Randy Alexander, environmental protection manager for the Environment Ministry. The two-metre-square container, with 72 pails of lube oil, had been sitting on the ocean floor since August 2007 when a barge tipped equipment into the famed wildlife area, where threatened northern resident killer whales feed and rub themselves on pebble beaches. The 11 pieces of equipment belonged to Ted LeRoy Trucking of Chemainus, which is charged with numerous pollution violations. The company declared bankruptcy last year.

The $2.5-million operation to remove the oil cube and a fully loaded fuel truck from 350 metres of water is being conducted by Mammoet Salvage B.V., a company based in the Netherlands, on behalf of the province and federal government.

A remotely operated underwater vehicle was first sent into the water, then a crane dropped down hooks and chains, which were attached to the container by the underwater vehicle before it was slowly pulled to the surface. Initially, the company planned to cover the cube with a special jacket to catch any spills, but with debris on the ocean floor, it was feared cables could be snagged.

The operation went extremely smoothly, said Paul Spong, director of whale research station OrcaLab, one of the many environmental groups pushing government to remove the equipment. "It came out of the water cleanly. There was a tiny bit of residual oil, but they had a boom around the site and I would say there was no impact on the environment."

Click here for the full story by Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist

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