The Canadian Coast Guard is sending an environmental response team to Postville following a spill of an unidentified pollutant into the harbour.
Residents of the small northern Labrador town began noticing a smell a few days ago and saw a sheen on the water that spread, AngajukKak (mayor) Glen Sheppard told SaltWire Network.
He said it is covering an area about 13 square kilometres and they want to find the source.
“It’s quite the area it’s spread across. People's boats are in a mess. There’s a strong smell of diesel. Everything points the finger to an oil spill or a wastage,” he said.
According to a statement from the Canadian Coast Guard, it received a report of a sheen on the water on Monday. They conducted a surveillance flight in the area and observed about 2,000 to 3,000 litres of pollutants. A flight they made the following day showed about 980 litres of pollutants remaining on the water. In addition to the response team, the Coast Guard has sent the CCGS George R. Pearkes to assess the scene.
Tanker not issue
A fuel tanker belonging to the Woodward Group of Cos. left the harbour in Postville on Sunday, and CEO Peter Woodward told SaltWire Network they checked the ship and the slick didn’t come from the vessel.
“We investigated our ship, the Coast Guard investigated our ship, and it doesn’t appear it came from our ship, so no one knows where it came from,” he said.
When the tanker was pumping in Postville the crew noticed the smell, Woodward said, and both they and the Coast Guard checked the ship, but found nothing.
“I’d love to know what’s going on as well,” he said. “We sent a helicopter up to take pictures and from we could see it appears to be coming from the shore, but we don’t know where it originated.”
Sheppard said he’s concerned for the potential impact on wildlife in the area, with three fast-water areas just southwest of the town and the diverse wildlife in the region. He said the slick has reached the beach and "while the rainbow rocks may look pretty, it isn’t a pretty mess."
“Kids swim down there, and we have caplin that spawn in that area,” he said.
"While the rainbow rocks may look pretty, it isn’t a pretty mess." — Glen Sheppard
The Nunatsiavut Government, the Inuit government that Postville is part of, released a statement about the spill on Tuesday, also raising concerns about the potential effects.
“This is a very concerning, as there are still many unanswered questions,” Nunatsiavut Lands and Natural Resources Minister Greg Flowers stated in the release. “We are monitoring the situation very closely and have been in regular contact with the Coast Guard. Hopefully, we will have some answers soon, and steps will be taken to immediately remediate any environmental impacts.”
Torngat Mountains MHA Lela Evans said she’s also worried about the damage to wildlife, with a large number of fish and birds in the area, and the reliance of the local people on the food chain. Her biggest concerns are that it will be cleaned up and investigated.
“The Coast Guard will be doing an assessment and deciding whether or not they’ll put resources behind cleaning it up,” she said. “I’d like to have this investigated, determine what caused it, and make sure that things are put in place to prevent this from happening.”
Both the Coast Guard and Service NL are looking into the spill, since it hasn’t been determined yet if it originated on land or on the water. They both told SaltWire Network the source of the spill had not yet been determined and they are working together to determine a course of action.
Evan Careen is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Labrador for SaltWire Network.