This photo was taken at McLean Mill on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at the end of the rail line after cleanup of the oil spill. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

This photo was taken at McLean Mill on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at the end of the rail line after cleanup of the oil spill. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

McLean Mill oil spill cleanup cost exceeds $1M

City of Port Alberni turns to federal gov’t for help with the national historic site

The City of Port Alberni is reaching out to the federal government for some financial assistance with McLean Mill now that costs associated with an oil spill at the national historic site have reached more than $1 million.

Back in October, a rail tank car was found to be leaking bunker oil in the rail yard at the McLean Mill National Historic Site. The total volume of oil spilled is now estimated to be 6,000 litres.

READ MORE: City of Port Alberni continues cleaning up after spill at McLean Mill

City CAO Tim Pley explained during a council meeting on Monday, Dec. 14 that all the contaminated soil and material has now been recovered and transported to disposal facilities in the Lower Mainland. The excavated area has been backfilled with clean aggregate material. There is “no evidence” that bunker oil entered any stream, Pley said.

Acting director of engineering Ken Watson added that the oil had “seeped into the ground dramatically,” so a larger amount of material than expected had to be removed.

“We were able to contain the material in the area where it spilled without it getting into the adjacent wetlands and creeks,” said Watson. “We had to remove all three of the rail lines that were in proximity. Just that transportation and disposal was more than half the associated costs.”

The city has stated that sometime prior to Oct. 26, a locked valve was opened on a rail tank car. Director of parks, recreation and heritage Willa Thorpe added on Monday that there are “numerous” valves on the tank car that must be “intentionally” opened.

“It wasn’t a case of an environmental situation or an act of God that would have opened those valves,” said Thorpe. “It’s uncertain at this point whether that was a malicious act or an accident.”

The rail tank car, which was located on a rail siding near the eastern property boundary, had been storing fuel for the No. 7 steam engine. The steam engine has not been operating for the past two years, and in that time it has been converted to use diesel oil instead of Bunker C oil.

“There’s nobody that we’re aware of that would have a reason to interact with that tank,” said Pley.

The Port Alberni RCMP confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation into the spill. The spill was reported to the detachment on Nov. 3, but the cause of the incident is “inconclusive” so far, said Cpl. Jacon Racz of the Port Alberni RCMP. He added that the geography of the scene has made the investigation difficult.

“It’s not a densely populated area where you would have a lot of witnesses,” said Racz.

Pley said he doesn’t know the full cost to the city yet, but expects it to be “significant.” So far, cleanup is estimated at $1.25 million. Insurance will only cover up to $100,000, so city staff is looking for other funding sources in the meantime.

On Monday, council expressed frustration with the cost of McLean Mill.

Mayor Sharie Minions pointed out that the city is unable to move forward on other initiatives when McLean Mill keeps coming first.

“I feel like I can’t support one more dollar going into this,” she said. “It never ends. It’s one disaster after another. It seems like everything that can go wrong out there goes wrong. It’s all of the unexpected costs, the unanticipated costs, the unbudgeted costs that are going to bankrupt us with this mill.”

Councillor Cindy Solda added that there is still more cleanup to be done.

“We have some ambitious things on our strategic plan, and it’s going to take a lot of money,” said Solda. “And we’re pumping a lot of money into the McLean Mill, just fixing up things.”

Councillor Ron Corbeil proposed writing to Steven Guilbeault, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, to try and get some assistance from senior levels of government.

“[McLean Mill is] costing this community hundreds of thousands of dollars and, quite frankly, I’m really getting quite tired of it,” he said. “This community is not big enough to afford luxuries like this.”

Council agreed on Monday to submit a letter to the federal government, asking for financial assistance.

READ MORE: ALC denies City of Port Alberni’s application for McLean Mill

Council also agreed to submit an application to remove the historic site from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). It will cost just under $10,000 to prepare an application.



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

McLean MillPort Alberni

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

On Aug. 26, 1947, a fire sparked in the lumber piles between Alberni Pacific Division sawmill and Alberni Plywood (located where Canal Waterfront Park is now). What resulted was a huge fire on Assembly Wharf One, where several buildings were gutted and stacks of lumber were burned. This photo is one of 24,000 contained in the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives, at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN07386 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)
LOOK BACK: 1947 fire destroys Port Alberni wharf

Take a peek into the Alberni Valley’s history with the Alberni Valley Museum

Artist Jim Holyoak’s installation “Quagmire.” Holyoak will be the first speaker for the Artist Talk Online Winter 2021 series. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
North Island College Artist Talk goes online for winter 2021

The series invites contemporary Canadian artists to speak about their professional practice

(NEWS FILE PHOTO)
City of Port Alberni, ACRD prepare for compost collection in 2021

Roadside pickup is expected to begin in the City of Port Alberni in June 2021

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo mountain with flares during icy rope rescue

Rescuers got injured hiker down Mt. Benson to a waiting ambulance Saturday night

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Most Read