Marine wildlife like these crabs on Parksville Beach would face serious danger in the event of an oil spill.

Whose job is it to clean oil spills?

Report suggests coastal municipalities are not prepared to deal with marine oil spill disaster

CARLI BERRY

news@pqbnews.com

A Georgia Strait Alliance report provides a critical look at how coastal municipal governments will be able to deal with marine oil spills.

The report looks at a variety of factors, including oil spill preparedness, response, and recovery capacity. The report found that there was only one local government that participated in the study that was fully prepared for an oil spill.

“I’m expecting we’re probably unprepared,” Parksville city Coun. Sue Powell said in response to the report. “Whose job is it (to clean up the spill)? Is it the oil company’s?”

According to Powell, there is a lack of understanding between local and senior governments on the role of municipalities and a lack of resources locals can use in the event of a spill.

The GSA report also cites a lack of communication between the local and provincial governments, as well as a lack of funding.

At a Parksville city council meeting on Apr. 20 following Vancouver’s English Bay oil spill, a motion put forward by Coun. Kirk Oates instructed city staff to send a letter to Premier Christy Clark “reiterating that AVICC’s (Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities) position on oil spill preparedness is also the position of the City of Parksville … that the AVICC request the Province of British Columbia order an independent audit of the current state of oil spill preparedness in B.C.”

Clark responded to the city within 10 days.

“I’m looking forward to the post-incident review — which will be made public — so we can better evaluate all the gaps that exist, and then focus our attention on how we and our federal counterparts can ensure something like this never happens again.”

Oates said Parksville will be affected at a local level so it “doesn’t matter” what level of government handles a preparedness plan.

Parksville’s beach, ecosystem and food system would be detrimentally affected by an oil spill, Oates said.

Jani Drew, emergency coordinator for the Regional District of Nanaimo, said the RDN does have an overall emergency plan which includes a contingency plan for marine oil spills.

The plan identifies actions and accountability, Drew said. As the Western Canada Marine Response  Corporation deals with the marine-based spills, the RDN contingency plan involves coordinating with the public and understanding the role of each agency, Drew said.

However, five of the six communities in the GSA report said yes when asked if there was a “need for strengthened engagement between the WCMRC and local government.”

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