Greenwood personnel contain fuel spill from civilian vehicle in turtle habitat

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News Article / February 22, 2018

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By Sara White

“Collective leadership and action is crucial if we are to achieve our sustainability commitments and leave a healthy environment for our children and grandchildren.” said Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in the introduction to the Defence Energy and Environment Strategy.

Personnel at 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia, recently put their dedication to environmental protection into action in their local community when they helped out with an environmental spill on civilian land.

An upside down civilian truck leaking diesel fuel into Zeke’s Brook near 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia, was the last thing that wing environmental personnel wanted to hear about first thing in the morning.

The January 18, 2017, incident put the  vehicle belonging to a civilian company in the waterway just off Highway 201, outside Department of National Defence property. The brook is keenly watched by the wing environment section, however, because of its wood turtle habitat. (In Nova Scotia, the wood turtle is protected under that province’s Endangered Species Act.) Plus, a baseline station just metres away from the overturned truck provides clean brook water for comparison samples for long-term monitoring of a decades-old contamination issue on base land downstream.

“Even though it wasn’t our call, we went,” said Steve Sauveur, wing environment manager.

Alan Ng from the wing environment section, along with Sergeant Lincoln Allen, the water, fuels and environment supervisor, and Warrant Officer Orlando Lewis of 141 Construction Engineering Flight, joined a Military Police member, local RCMP and Kingston, Nova Scotia, firefighters on the scene.

The vehicle had been abandoned; the company owning the vehicle said that the technician driving the vehicle had left to be treated for minor injuries. Wing environment reported the spill to both Environment Canada and the provincial Environment Department.

“But we weren’t going to leave it – we did due diligence,” Mr. Ng said. “We did some quick checking and knew the fuel capacity of the truck was between 100 and 130 litres. From an environmental perspective for spills, you assume the worst.”

The wing’s damage control team, including Sergeant Allen, Mr. Lewis, Mr. Ng and members of 146 and 141 Construction Flights gathered up spill response gear: absorbent pads and booms, hazardous materials disposal bags and reaching poles.

“We don’t deploy this kind of equipment on base very often – there could be the odd, once or twice a year, spill while refuelling,” said Mr. Ng.

“We could see floating fuel on the east side of the brook by the truck, going under the road culvert toward the base and accumulating a few metres further on against a pile of floating ice.”

The base team set out two floating absorbent booms on both ends of the culvert to contain the fuel coming from the truck. They used extension poles to reach from the banks to “pad” other spots of accumulating fuel. All told, the initial effort took close to three hours.

They left fresh booms and pads in place overnight, returning Friday to clear out the contaminated equipment. They left more material in place over the weekend, removing it all January 24. All told, four or five large garbage bags of contaminated materials were collected. The fuel-soaked pads were handled through the wing’s hazmat disposal process.

“It was cold, it was wet, but everyone on the team said it was good practice we don’t do very often – and we did the right thing,” Mr. Ng said

“[For] some of my people – this was their first real fuel spill to respond to, so it was a good training scenario. We can’t create this kind of scenario,” noted Mr. Allen.

“Preliminary findings indicate 14 Wing followed all the proper procedures, and the investigation is ongoing,” said a representative from the provincial Environment Department.

Sara White is the managing editor of The Aurora, 14 Wing Greenwood’s base newspaper.

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