Update: Cliffs Natural Resources responds to oil spill story

Ashley
Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Heavy fuel oil amounts larger than stated in initial estimates

Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. today responded to a story in today’s Telegram about an oil spill in Sept-Îles, Que.

The spill was first reported to government officials on Sunday, Sept. 1, with the cleanup ongoing.

The Telegram story notes that, according to information provided last week by the provincial and federal governments, the oil spill took place at a Cliffs Natural Resources pellet plant at Pointe-Noire in Sept-Îles and saw an estimated 1,000 litres of heavy fuel oil escape site protections and run into nearby waters. The Quebec government is now saying about 5,000 litres of oil escaped initial containment.

Cliffs carves iron ore from the Labrador Trough, from mines in Fermont, Que., and across the provincial border in Wabush, shipping material by rail to its pellet plant and dock facilities in Sept-Îles.

As of Tuesday’s deadline, The Telegram was unable to get a response to calls on the spill of heavy fuel oil in Sept-Îles. In addition, The Telegram story said that no news releases had been issued and no information on the spill or cleanup had been posted on the company’s website as of deadline.

In an email from the company today, however, a senior company media relations person sent links to postings on the company’s website regarding the spill, and sent news releases apparently distributed to media since the spill occurred.

A news release dated Sept. 5 states that Cliffs “reported today that the incident that occurred on August 31 involving bunker oil in the Bay of Sept-Iles near its shipping operations is being actively managed and that the source of the incident is under control. Appropriate governmental agencies were notified immediately of the incident and Cliffs deployed its emergency action plan including the immediate mobilization of SIMEC, a Canadian Certified Response Organization that specializes in containment efforts.

“Since the incident on August 31, Cliffs has been actively co-operating with the Quebec Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks (MSDEWP) and with Environment Canada. Quebec MSDEWP representatives have been on-site during the entire response. Close communication has also been maintained with Environment Canada, which is now represented on site. In addition, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Focus Wildlife and bird specialists are onsite to assist with management of any potential impact to fish or wildlife.

“While the incident is regrettable, it’s important to note that approximately 99 per cent of the released material was captured onsite in a retention dike, which is mostly pumped and safely stored. As for the quantity that leaked into the Bay of Sept Iles, which is mostly in sheen form, multiple estacades are being installed in strategic areas and boats and equipment are being utilized to recover it.  

Steeve Charest, general manager, Cliffs Pointe-Noire operations, is quoted in the news release: “This is an unfortunate incident, and Cliffs is committed to taking all appropriate and necessary action to address the issues and remediate the affected area in the Bay of Sept-Iles. We have contained the spill and will continue to work diligently to resolve this matter in close cooperation with the regulatory authorities.”  

•••

(Earlier story)

The oil spill in Sept-Îles, Que., was first reported to government officials on Sunday, Sept. 1 but, more than a week later, the cleanup continues.

“The cleanup might last some weeks. It will last as long as there is contamination,” stated a spokesman for the Quebec environment department, in an emailed response Tuesday to questions from The Telegram.

According to information provided last week by the provincial and federal governments, the oil spill took place at a Cliffs Natural Resources pellet plant at Pointe-Noire in Sept-Îles and saw an estimated 1,000 litres of heavy fuel oil escape site protections and run into nearby waters.

Yet that early estimate has since gone out the window and the Quebec government is now saying about 5,000 litres of oil escaped initial containment.

Earlier this week, the Montreal Gazette reported seven kilometres of floating dikes in the bay and more than 20 boats taking part in oil containment and cleanup.

“The government has no vessels involved, only ECRC has boats to do the job,” stated the provincial government official when asked about the response. The ECRC is the Eastern Canada Response Corp., established to provide spill response services upon request and with a response centre in Sept-Îles.

As for what the environmental cleanup entails, the Quebec government spokesman said response teams have isolated oil on the water and are now pumping off the material and contaminated water, and are collecting contaminated soil.

He reported 125,000 litres of oil in an emergency containment basin; 135,950 litres of contaminated water in containment and oil in a holding tank; and another 260,050 litres of oil and oiled saltwater inside containment booms. The site has about 1,446 tonnes of contaminated soil, he said, with another 214 tonnes of “contaminated materials.”

While out front on public relations when Cliffs was playing a part in efforts to build a firebreak near the Town of Wabush to protect it from forest fire, a representative for Cliffs in Eastern Canada has yet to respond to calls on the spill of heavy fuel oil in Sept-Îles.

No news releases have been issued and no information on the spill or cleanup had been posted on the company’s website as of deadline.

Cliffs carves iron ore from the Labrador Trough, from mines in Fermont, Que., and across the provincial border in Wabush, shipping material by rail to its pellet plant and dock facilities in Sept-Îles.

Response to environmental emergencies in Quebec falls into one of three categories. The spill at Sept-Îles has been set at a Category 2, which means the event involves hazardous materials that may have a significant impact on the environment, the consequences are difficult to identify or response to the event is complex.

According to an email response to questions a week ago, Environment Canada has supported the response, provided local weather forecasts for the bay at Sept-Îles, assisted in spill dispersal modelling and provided direction on the handling of birds.

“At this point, Environment Canada has not determined whether enforcement measures will be necessary. We continue to monitor the situation along with the other stakeholders,” the response stated.

The Quebec government is investigating, but has similarly not determined if any action will be taken against the company.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

This is an updated version.

Organizations: Eastern Canada Response, Cliffs Natural Resources, Montreal Gazette Environment Canada Category 2

Geographic location: Sept-Îles, Quebec, Pointe-Noire Wabush Eastern Canada Fermont

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  • Federal Government please wake up and Stop the pollution you are allowing in our environment.
    September 11, 2013 - 09:29

    Good God! What the Hell is going on with this Federal Government in allowing such pollution to be occurring in our environment? Soon we will all be dying from cancer if this attitude in allowing "anything and everything " for industry to be given the green light to go ahead and pollute is not curbed.