My station was directly involved with the propane tanker incident that is indicated below. I was not yet a member, having moved to the area the weekend after it happened. However, I would have seen and heard the "boom" if it had occured because the residence I had at the time was just across the inlet from where the incident took place. That particular event required the evacuation of all residents within a two mile area, as well as closing the only highway system for the Island for nearly 24 hours. The ferry system became badly overloaded, and it was several weeks before semi-truck deliveries were caught up. The only avaiable alternate route is not up to code for heavy/high volume traffic, being mostly a network of logging roads.

CRD studies need for hazardous-materials response. Bill Cleverley Times Colonist

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Greater Victoria has no trained personnel to respond to hazardous-materials spills, Capital Regional District directors were told Wednesday.

So the CRD will spend up to $5,000 to look at establishing a regional hazardous-materials response team. A study is to begin as soon as possible and be completed in two months.

Hazardous-materials incidents are akin to having a fox in a henhouse, Regional Emergency Co-ordinators Commission chairman Ken Neilson told the CRD's finance and administration board Wednesday.

"You don't realize that it's really there until you see the feathers flying," he said.

Neilson cited the overturning of a propane tanker near the summit of the Malahat Drive two years ago and the chemical spill at the Victoria General Hospital laundry last fall as examples of the need for such a team.

"They have demonstrated to us that municipalities in the CRD have a limited -- if any capacity at all -- to deal with a serious or large hazmat incident," Neilson said. "The Malahat incident resulted in the 24-hour closure of the highway which definitely had impacts on the Greater Victoria area, and the hospital spill resulted in business interruption, huge cleanup costs and fines."

The Vancouver Island Health Authority and the B.C. Ambulance service are both looking at establishing chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear teams, but their focus will be on biological emergencies, he said.

Individual municipalities have investigated cross-training firefighters into hazardous-material capable teams but costs are in $377,000 range with annual operating expenses of about $150,000, which are seen as prohibitive.

Neilson said that the Vancouver Fire Department and the Surrey Fire Department are the nearest trained and equipped hazmat teams. The Department of National Defence, which has had a hazmat team, will no longer respond unless the request is made formally through the provincial emergency program and the federal administrative process, he said.

"As you can appreciate, the time difference to get approval from Ottawa to respond to an incident could be quite lengthy. And with hazmat spills, of course, urgency maybe of the utmost necessity," Neilson said.

He said vulnerable areas in the capital region include:

- Rail lines hauling hazardous freight and tankers running through Victoria, Esquimalt, View Royal and Langford,

- UVic, where experiments using biological substances and chemicals are undertaken, borders on Saanich and Oak Bay,

- Highway 17, which runs through Victoria, Saanich, Central Saanich, Sidney, and North Saanich carries dangerous cargoes,

- Several municipalities are home to swimming pools that use chlorine and bromine for water sterilization.

The CRD-funded study is to include an inter-municipal risk analysis and consider size, scope and equipment required. It will look at cross-training firefighters as well as the feasibility of contracting on a fee-for-service basis from DND.

© Copyright 2003 Times Colonist (Victoria)