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Mayor of Vancouver blames province, feds for slow fuel spill response

BC Premier Christy Clark (L) and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson (R) (NEWS 1130 Photos)

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Vancouver’s mayor says the response to the fuel spill in English Bay has been inadequate and he is calling on the provincial and federal governments to step in.

Gregor Robertson is specifically blaming BC’s environment minister and the federal transport minister. He says there are a lot of questions that still need to be answered.

“In terms of going forward, we need far better coordination of all the partners,” says Robertson.

“We have to ensure the Coast Guard, the clean-up crews, the provincial ministry of environment [which is] responsible for the shoreline… and the city — our people, our front-line workers — are able to respond on the beaches and in the water. We have five fire boats and a police boat that can be deployed when the help is needed. But ultimately, the responsibility for the foreshore itself… is the provincial and federal government.”

He says the flow of information from the Coast Guard was not good enough.

“Why did it take 13 hours for the City to know about this so that our park rangers [and] fire boats could actually contribute to the efforts so we can let citizens know what to do next. [Commissioner Roger Girouard] reflected back to me, having many of those same questions. But that’s not good enough when we’re in the middle of trying to recover a spill, trying to deploy all of the forces needed to deal with it. We have to have that information readily available.”

Premier agrees that response was inadequate

Premier Christy Clark is echoing Robertson’s sentiments, saying she doesn’t understand why it took so long for crews to get booms in place to contain the spill.

“We’re going to have to come up with a better way of doing this. If that means that in the future, the Coast Guard is relieved of their lead in this and starts taking direction from the province, then perhaps that’s a better way to do it.”

Clark says she’s reached out to the prime minister’s office to question the Coast Guard’s handling of the incident. “I’m equally [or] even more disappointed, I would say, that it took them six hours to get booms in place. Six hours… in the busiest port in Canada.”

She also says she’s disappointed it took the Coast Guard more than 12 hours to notify the City of Vancouver that the spill had occurred.

As for Robertson’s criticisms, Clark says he doesn’t have a thorough understanding of the unified command response to oil spills.

We now know which ship is responsible for the spill of about 3,000 litres of fuel; it was a cargo vessel from Cyprus on its maiden voyage.