The coal jetty at Westshore Terminals' Roberts Bank facility was damaged by the Freighter Cape Apricot last Friday

The coal jetty at Westshore Terminals' Roberts Bank facility was damaged by the Freighter Cape Apricot last Friday

Roberts Bank coal spill raises environmental concerns

Coal powder poses no risk: Westshore Terminals

Close to 35 tonnes of high-grade coal powder spilled into the waters off Roberts Bank early last Friday (Dec. 7) after a freighter collided with the Westshore Terminals coal port, raising concerns about the prospect of increased shipping along the B.C. coast.

The mishap occurred around 1 a.m. when the 180,000-tonne coal freighter Cape Apricot lost control and crashed into one of the coal conveyors, knocking 120 metres of the causeway into the ocean.

Denis Horgan, general manager of Westshore Terminals, said the salvage is going slowly because the broken causeway has to be secured and stabilized before teams can go in and remove materials. Transportation Safety Board and Port Metro Vancouver are helping with the investigation into the crash.

Kevin Washbrook, director of Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, is calling the incident coal’s “Enbridge moment.”

“It’s the point where this continued drive to expand exports and the argument that, ‘don’t worry, we’re the experts, we know what we’re doing,’ comes up against the realities of the world, that accidents happen,” he said.

Washbrook said people should be concerned about the coal spill occurring so close to an internationally significant bird habitat in Roberts Bank.

“Coal dust is toxic, it’s full of heavy metals. It’s harmful to humans, it’s harmful to the ocean,” he said.

However, Horgan disagrees, as the high-grade, low-sulfide coal powder that was spilled is practically inert.

“Coal is a naturally occurring mineral,” he said. “It is not toxic. It is not harmful to marine life, bird life, or human life.”

Horgan said there’s an abundance of marine life around the terminal with thriving rock reefs filled with fish and crabs.

“I guess if coal is bad for fish, nobody’s told the fish.”

Richard Swanston, a Tsawwassen resident and bird watcher, said this accident highlights the concerned of a huge oil spill in the Fraser Delta.

He said thousands of migratory birds would be affected by such a spill, such as Brant and snow geese, Western Grebe, cormorants, scoters, loons, and diving ducks.

Port Metro Vancouver vice president Duncan Wilson said the comparison isn’t accurate because the safety standards are different between oil tankers and other ships. For instance, crude oil tankers are double-hulled, and come with two marine pilots. There’s an escort tug at the bow, as well.

“A lot of redundancies are built in specifically because we recognize the concern about a liquid bulk spill,” he said.

He said coal is relatively inert and doesn’t pose a danger to marine life and that the amount of coal in the water is tiny and most of it is still sitting in the conveyor belt and can be salvaged.

Westshore wasted no time to keep the coal moving, acquiring an engineer and contractor to fabricate and install the new conveyor system and road the day of the accident.

Productivity at Westshore is expected to drop by 50 per cent during reconstruction of the second berth. Horgan said there’s no way to increase capacity on berth one since it already operates 24 hours a day, 364 days a year, shutting only for Christmas.

Just Posted

Aidan See played for the North Island Silvertips during the 2019-2020 season. (PHOTO COURTESY RON HAYES)
VIJHL: Port Alberni Bombers add hometown talent to roster

Junior B hockey club signs Aidan See, Blake Power and Grayson Erickson

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

The remains of the Mid-Island Co-op in Whiskey Creek along the Alberni Highway on Friday, June 18, after a blaze the day before devastated the gas station. (Michael Briones photo)
VIDEO: Whiskey Creek gas station destroyed by fire after camper van explosion

Nine fire departments responded to the incident, no injuries reported

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

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

Most Read