Mysterious diesel spill on the Port Alberni waterfront dissipates without cleanup

Denise Titian, September 22, 2020

A large sheen of diesel oil was reported on the water near Port Alberni’s Harbour Quay on Saturday, Sept 12. (Denise Titian photo)

Port Alberni, BC — 

A fisherman reported to the Port Alberni Port Authority (PAPA) that he saw a large sheen of diesel oil on the water near Port Alberni’s Harbour Quay on Saturday, Sept 12.

Mike Carter, director of operations at PAPA, confirmed the call, noting that at this time of the year, when rain is falling, oily sheen on the water is a common thing.

Carter, who had been in Nanaimo when the call came in, reported it to Emergency Management BC but said they indicated that they needed to hear from the original caller.

“I passed the information on to the fisherman but I don’t know if he called them,” said Carter.

PAPA then followed their own internal process to respond to the spill.

“We had an international vessel and the FV Sunderoey of the Independent Seafood Canada Corporation (tied up at the deep-sea dock) and we talked to the captain; they said they didn’t see any issues from their vessels,” said Carter.

In addition, PAPA staff checked in with marina staff at the various docks and marinas in Port Alberni.

“They walked the docks to look for the source but none was found,” said Carter.

“Rarely do we find the source (for a diesel spill),” added Carter, but diesel dissipates quickly. “The sheen is long gone, it didn’t last long.”

He went on to say that if anyone comes forward with information about the source of a fuel spill, he would gladly follow up on it.

While diesel and other petroleum products are toxic to plants and animals, it is a relatively light, refined petroleum product.

According to the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, small diesel spills will usually evaporate and disperse within a day or less. This is particularly true for typical spills from a fishing vessel (500-5,000 gallons), even in cold water. Thus, seldom is there any oil on the surface for responders to recover, according to the NOAA.