Cleanup team contains gasoline spill near Baker Lake

Investigation continues into the origin of the spill south of community’s tank farm

An emergency response team continues to investigate the source of a gasoline spill near the tank farm in Baker Lake, but the contaminated snow and ice has now been contained. (Photo courtesy of the Government of Nunavut)

By Jane George

An emergency response team has made progress cleaning up a big gasoline spill at Baker Lake’s tank farm.

Since arriving April 24, the team has built a 1,700-cubic-metre temporary containment cell and put all the contaminated ice and snow into it, said Nathaniel Hutchinson, director of Nunavut’s petroleum products division.

That cell holds enough ice and snow to fill two-thirds of an Olympic sized swimming pool.

As the contaminated snow and ice melts, the team may put some of the water into one dedicated tank for containment until it can be treated, tested and released, Hutchinson said.

Meanwhile, workers are cleaning and inspecting all tanks and the integrity of the entire tank farm system, he said.

“The crew has also worked on constructing an outflow trench and dams to control any runoff from the site,” he said.

While most of the gasoline that spilled will evaporate, the residue contains some toxic additives, which the Government of Nunavut doesn’t want to see getting into Baker Lake’s water.

The spill was detected March 29, although an inspection earlier that month had noted a broken intake valve spraying gasoline near a bulk tank.

The spill still looks to be about 10,000 litres, according to the government, which is enough to fill about 200 passenger vehicle gas tanks.

“We are looking at other potential sources of leaks as well, but that investigation still ongoing,” Hutchinson said.

He said the crew on site has found another small leak on the outside of a dispenser, so they are going to excavate to see if that has any link to the fuel found to the south of the facility.

“We’re still trying to figure out the flow path,” he said.

Right now, there are 12 to 14 people working on site, along with heavy equipment.

“Fuel spills are always expensive and this is no exception,” Hutchinson said.

After the spill cleanup is finished, a final report will be prepared.

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