CLEANUP crews rushed to the West Vancouver waterfront this week after some 300 litres of oil spilled from downed transformers into a waterway connected to Ambleside Park.
The mess was triggered Sunday afternoon when heavy winds brought down a tree onto wires next to Taylor Way, which in turn pulled down a power pole supporting three transformers. The devices cracked open, spilling insulating oil into a nearby storm drain.
The oil quickly made its way downhill to a "bioswale" - a kind of marshy water catchment - west of the Ambleside playing fields, into Sway'wey Creek and on into the nearby duck pond.
B.C. Hydro crews arrived on scene a short time later, and were soon joined by environmental officials from several government agencies. They tracked the chemical downhill, setting up booms and absorbent pads in the swale, the creek, the pond, and even the ocean beyond the park.
The municipality closed the playing fields and portions of the park as a precaution, while crews took samples and used a vacuum truck to remove some 5,000 litres of contaminated water from the system. A cleaning station was set up at the site in case any waterfowl were affected, but it ultimately proved unnecessary, according to Hydro.
Much of the oil was caught by a Stormceptor under Marine Drive, a device designed specifically to remove contaminants from storm water, but a portion got through into the neighbouring waterway, with workers reporting an oily sheen on parts of the duck pond as late as Friday.
Hydro has insisted the oil itself was nontoxic, although tests revealed it contained PCBs at a concentration of 10-13 parts per million - a little more than double the level deemed acceptable in soil, but still too low to impact human health. The utility estimates a total of 3.3 grams of PCBs escaped in the spill.
Crews completed their cleanup Friday, although they left some booms on site as a precaution.