Vessel at yacht club spills fuel into the LaHave River

by Keith Corcoran

A fuel spill into the LaHave River in the community of West LaHave has a local resident and boater concerned the local yacht club and volunteer fire department may not be equipped enough to handle such incidents.

"There should be at least some kind of pontoon or booms there to protect a vessel in case of spillage," said Bill Nickerson, a member of the LaHave River Yacht Club.

Members of the club, located off Pernette Drive, were told a bilge pump on a docked boat was turned on earlier this month, causing gasoline to spill into the LaHave River.

Nickerson said there was "a very strong smell of gas" in area at the time as he lives near the club location. He said the slick was about 300 metres by 200 metres in size and the discharge was estimated to be in the 500 litre range.

First responders and the Canadian Coast Guard attended the scene.

A call to Nathan Ott, fire chief for the LaHave and district fire department, which services the West LaHave community, was not returned.

Stephen Bornais, a spokesman for the coast guard, said "a non-recoverable sheen" was noticed on the water when the agency's environmental response team arrived July 11. Bornais said the leak occurred July 10.

"The pleasure craft that had leaked fuel had already been removed from the water," he told LighthouseNOW. "No sheen was observed July 15 and no further action is required from coast guard."

Phone messages left for yacht club Commodore Richard Foy and Vice Commodore Peter Kielburger were not returned.

Michael Hatt, the yacht club's Rear Commodore, told LighthouseNOW that Foy communicated to members what precautions to take and what to do if there are any spills in the future. "It was an accidental discharge," Hatt said of the recent spill.

"The yacht club reported it to the police and fire department and the coast guard and they all came down and had a look and said everything was okay."

Nickerson provided LighthouseNOW with communications from the club, which informed members to take out gas or diesel "via other means" if one's bilge smells of fuel and "do not discharge it overboard."

The club owns an oil and fuel extractor, the message reads.

"If you see fuel in the water or have accidentally pumped it overboard, call 911 and they will notify the fire dept, which may be able to contain it and 911 will also notify the RCMP and Coast Guard. Also stay around so you can be interviewed and help out with situation."

The discharge of fuel into the river "is both illegal and dangerous plus it creates toxic environment for anyone in the area," the message goes on.

"The Coast Guard can fine up to $50,000 to anyone caught doing this."

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