Fuel spill 2 years ago in Rankin Inlet could have adverse environmental effects: GN
The Government of Nunavut has released details about what caused a “significant” fuel spill at Rankin Inlet High School two years ago, and what the government is doing to ensure that an incident like this this does not happen again.
More than 18,000 liters of diesel fuel spilled from an overflowing tank at the community’s Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik Secondary School in April 2020. That’s roughly the equivalent of what it would take to fill 370 tanks passenger car fuel.
The government was fined $100,000 earlier this year in connection with the spill and ordered to release details of the incident publicly.
The Department of Community and Government Services released those details on Friday.
According to this press release, a GN contractor has not completed the installation of a fuel system at the school. Proper installation would have allowed automated transfer of diesel between tanks, but this was not done.
“This required CGS personnel to manually transfer diesel fuel from one tank to another using a pump and valve,” the statement said.
On April 16, 2020, an error during one of these fuel transfers caused a tank to overflow, starting around 2 p.m. that day. The overflow continued until 9:20 a.m. the following day, when the problem was discovered.
The fuel flowed through a drain in the floor to the municipal utility system, the lift station at Johnston Cove as well as the sewage treatment plant where it was dumped into Hudson Bay. .
Community and Government Services staff notified the Hamlet, the fire department and the Department of the Environment at 1:00 p.m. on April 17. They attempted to clean up the high school building and the lift station and monitored the spill in the bay.
“Options were limited due to the thick ice cover and high tide,” the statement said.
A spill of 18,400 liters is “significant”, the statement said. One liter of diesel can contaminate between 100,000 and one million liters of water, and the toxic components of diesel can also lead to various health problems, including death.
The statement cites a study in Antarctica which found that petroleum components were detected in wildlife a month after a spill occurred in that region.
It is unclear if anyone is testing petroleum components in wildlife in and around Hudson Bay following the spill there.
“Cold temperatures slow the evaporation and breakdown of oil,” the statement said.
“The Arctic ecosystem is more threatened due to the low diversity of plant and animal species. Traditional food occupies an important place in the lives of [Inuit]including arctic char and bearded and ringed seals.
The Department of Community and Government Services took a number of steps to prevent a spill at Rankin Inlet High School.
This includes installing a new fuel system to prevent tank overflow; installation of a pump timer when manual fuel transfers are to take place, which would prevent overflow; updated procedures that require a second person to record fuel transfers; and a new contingency plan that brings the department into compliance with closed fuel system regulations.