This photo was taken at McLean Mill on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at the end of the rail line after cleanup of the oil spill. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

This photo was taken at McLean Mill on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at the end of the rail line after cleanup of the oil spill. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

McLean Mill oil spill cleanup cost exceeds $1M

City of Port Alberni turns to federal gov’t for help with the national historic site

The City of Port Alberni is reaching out to the federal government for some financial assistance with McLean Mill now that costs associated with an oil spill at the national historic site have reached more than $1 million.

Back in October, a rail tank car was found to be leaking bunker oil in the rail yard at the McLean Mill National Historic Site. The total volume of oil spilled is now estimated to be 6,000 litres.

READ MORE: City of Port Alberni continues cleaning up after spill at McLean Mill

City CAO Tim Pley explained during a council meeting on Monday, Dec. 14 that all the contaminated soil and material has now been recovered and transported to disposal facilities in the Lower Mainland. The excavated area has been backfilled with clean aggregate material. There is “no evidence” that bunker oil entered any stream, Pley said.

Acting director of engineering Ken Watson added that the oil had “seeped into the ground dramatically,” so a larger amount of material than expected had to be removed.

“We were able to contain the material in the area where it spilled without it getting into the adjacent wetlands and creeks,” said Watson. “We had to remove all three of the rail lines that were in proximity. Just that transportation and disposal was more than half the associated costs.”

The city has stated that sometime prior to Oct. 26, a locked valve was opened on a rail tank car. Director of parks, recreation and heritage Willa Thorpe added on Monday that there are “numerous” valves on the tank car that must be “intentionally” opened.

“It wasn’t a case of an environmental situation or an act of God that would have opened those valves,” said Thorpe. “It’s uncertain at this point whether that was a malicious act or an accident.”

The rail tank car, which was located on a rail siding near the eastern property boundary, had been storing fuel for the No. 7 steam engine. The steam engine has not been operating for the past two years, and in that time it has been converted to use diesel oil instead of Bunker C oil.

“There’s nobody that we’re aware of that would have a reason to interact with that tank,” said Pley.

The Port Alberni RCMP confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation into the spill. The spill was reported to the detachment on Nov. 3, but the cause of the incident is “inconclusive” so far, said Cpl. Jacon Racz of the Port Alberni RCMP. He added that the geography of the scene has made the investigation difficult.

“It’s not a densely populated area where you would have a lot of witnesses,” said Racz.

Pley said he doesn’t know the full cost to the city yet, but expects it to be “significant.” So far, cleanup is estimated at $1.25 million. Insurance will only cover up to $100,000, so city staff is looking for other funding sources in the meantime.

On Monday, council expressed frustration with the cost of McLean Mill.

Mayor Sharie Minions pointed out that the city is unable to move forward on other initiatives when McLean Mill keeps coming first.

“I feel like I can’t support one more dollar going into this,” she said. “It never ends. It’s one disaster after another. It seems like everything that can go wrong out there goes wrong. It’s all of the unexpected costs, the unanticipated costs, the unbudgeted costs that are going to bankrupt us with this mill.”

Councillor Cindy Solda added that there is still more cleanup to be done.

“We have some ambitious things on our strategic plan, and it’s going to take a lot of money,” said Solda. “And we’re pumping a lot of money into the McLean Mill, just fixing up things.”

Councillor Ron Corbeil proposed writing to Steven Guilbeault, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, to try and get some assistance from senior levels of government.

“[McLean Mill is] costing this community hundreds of thousands of dollars and, quite frankly, I’m really getting quite tired of it,” he said. “This community is not big enough to afford luxuries like this.”

Council agreed on Monday to submit a letter to the federal government, asking for financial assistance.

READ MORE: ALC denies City of Port Alberni’s application for McLean Mill

Council also agreed to submit an application to remove the historic site from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). It will cost just under $10,000 to prepare an application.



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

McLean MillPORT ALBERNI

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Willow, a kitten belonging to a Victoria family, was rescued by firefighters on Thursday after she got stuck in a basement drain pipe. (City of Victoria/Twitter)
Victoria kitten stuck in basement drain pipe rescued by firefighters

Willow the cat on the mend, owner feeling ‘enormous gratitude’

(Black Press Media file photo)
Blue-green algae bloom confirmed in Elk Lake, water-based activities not recommended

Blue-green algae can be lethal to dogs, cause health issues for humans

Victoria police arrested a man Jan. 15 after he rammed his minivan into an occupied police vehicle. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria man arrested for ramming minivan into occupied police vehicle

Man caught after fleeing, crashing into cement retaining wall

A fire sparked at an encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue early Thursday morning. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Residents of Pat Bay Highway encampment to be relocated after early morning fire, site secured for clean up

Eviction notice issued in 2020, not enforced to allow BC Housing to connect with campers

Mayor Rob Martin and Costa Canna president Phil Floucault cut the ribbon on Colwood’s first cannabis retail store. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Cowichan Tribes’ Costa Canna cannabis store opens in Colwood

Cowichan Tribes has one-year deal to grow, sell cannabis

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targetted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Most Read