Kootenay Lake Ferry Incident

DISCLAIMER: Information provided is based on reports received by Emergency Management B.C. Information provided is considered to be current at the time of posting, but is subject to change as new information becomes available.

Incident Description

Incident Date April 15, 2017
Name Kootenay Lake Ferry Incident (DGIR: 170189)
Source Kootenay Balfour Ferry
Nearest Community Balfour, B.C.
Spilled Content Gear oil
Who is involved? B.C. Ministry of Environment, Emergency Management B.C., Interior Health Authority, Canadian Coast Guard, Western Pacific Marine, RAM Environmental Ltd., Ministry of Transportation, Regional District of Central Kootenay, Masse Environmental Consultants Ltd., First Nations Health Authority, and Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation. 


Response Phase Detail

The responsible person or spiller is legally required to clean-up or manage the clean-up of a spill. In incidents where the responsible person is unknown, unable or unwilling to manage the clean up, the Ministry of Environment may assume the role. The updates below reflect the Ministry’s oversight of the spillers’ actions; details describe the spill response phase, only, and not the complete lifecycle of the spill. See More Information for other related reports. 

Updates are in reverse chronological order, with the most recent at the top. Industry-specific language may be explained in the Glossary of Terms (PDF).

Most Recent Update

June 6, 2017 - 9:47 pm

The final Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique (SCAT) survey for this incident was conducted on June 2. The SCAT report states:

  • Kootenay Lake levels were 1.7 m higher on June 2 than the levels on the date of the spill (April 15, 2017)
  • Rising lake levels, wave action, wind and precipitation have been the main factors in flushing the spilled gear oil from the shoreline
  • As gear oil from the spill is no longer detectable by sight, smell or feel within the areas previously impacted no further actions are warranted

The final SCAT report has been reviewed by Interior Health, Canadian Coast Guard and B.C. Ministry of Environment. Interior Health has taken down their public service advisory regarding the area around the Balfour ferry terminal. No further actions will be taken.

The final SCAT report can be found here.  

May 9, 2017 - 3:02 pm

On May 5, 2017, Mass Environmental released a water and sand quality update. Water quality samples were taken at seven sites on April 26, 2017. Nine sand samples were collected along the beach on April 21, 2017. The full report can be found here.

At least one more set of samples will be taken at the same locations before the end of May. The Central Kootenay Regional District will be invited to participate in the sample gathering and shoreline observation.

Results from the next round of sampling will help responders decide if further actions need to be taken.

May 1, 2017 - 1:14 pm

The April 28, 2017 Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Technique (SCAT) report shows how the increased water level of the lake is accelerating the natural attenuation by flushing the beach. The residual oil is becoming re-mobilized, allowing evaporation to take place. Due to the absence of recoverable product, unified command has decided to allow natural attenuation to continue removing the remaining sheen while monitoring the process.  

Another SCAT survey is planned for one week to ten days from now. Masse Environmental will conduct the SCAT survey, accompanied by a staff member from the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary. 

April 28, 2017

A 925 m length of shoreline, located on the West Arm of the Kootenay Lake, was resurveyed on April 26, 2017, as a follow-up to the Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Technique (SCAT) surveys that were completed on April 17 and April 20, 2017. 

The complete SCAT report for April 26, 2017 can be found here


April 25, 2017 - 8:32 am

Masse Environmental Consultants Ltd., a contractor hired by Western Pacific Marine, completed an initial Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Technique (SCAT)  survey on April 17, 2017. The same shoreline sections were resurveyed on April 20, 2017. Results from the SCAT surveys were reviewed by Canadian Coast Guard and B.C. Ministry of Environment. 

The SCAT report indicates a light film in most of the areas sampled, with patches of light rainbow sheen present in a few locations. While there were still signs of sheen visible during the April 20 SCAT survey, there was no recoverable oil due to the thinness of the product. The SCAT report can be found here.

According to Masse Environmental, there was a notable reduction of odour and observable oil between SCAT surveys and continued improvement is expected. Significant flushing of the shoreline occurred between April 17 and April 20 due to wave action from the ferry, precipitation and changes in water levels in the West Arm of Kootenay Lake. Fortis BC forecasts water levels in the main lake will continue to rise until April 28, 2017. The level is forecast to rise 0.18 m above the height recorded at the time of the spill. 

Water quality samples were collected at nine sites between April 16 – 19, 2017. Samples were taken from the top 10 – 20 cm of the water column and included surface water. Samples were analyzed for extractable petroleum hydrocarbons and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These are contaminants of concern that are typically tested for during oil spills of this type. The water quality report can be found here.

Another SCAT survey is planned for Wednesday, April 26. Water sampling will also continue this week. 

April 19, 2017 - 9:19 am

The faulty piece of equipment was removed from the ferry yesterday morning. Western Pacific Marine recovered two barrels of emulsified oil and water solution from the leaking piece of machinery, for a total of just over 416 L of mixed oil and water. Western Pacific Marine is waiting until the the oil settles out and separates from the water to determine the exact amount of spilled gear oil. However, the amount spill has been determined to be less than originally thought.

Due to the removal of the faulty equipment, no more gear oil is leaking into the lake and the boom immediately around the the boat was removed yesterday evening.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay reports there are no parks in the immediate area of the incident and recreational concerns regarding the beach are reduced this time of year.

Unified Command will review the findings of a shoreline assessment planned for Thursday, April 20 to monitor the effectiveness of natural attenuation. Natural attenuation refers to a variety of physical, chemical, or biological processes, such as wave action and UV degradation, that reduce the mass, toxicity, mobility, volume, or concentration of contaminants without direct human intervention. 

Please see this information sheet on oil types and weathering processes from the U.S. National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Further actions will be determined after Thursday's assessment. 

No further updates will be provided on this incident unless the situation deteriorates. 

April 18, 2017 - 10:30 am

Contractors acquired by Western Pacific Marine have developed a spill plan to remove faulty equipment on the ferry. A crane operator will be removing faulty equipment aboard the ferry today.

A shoreline assessment was completed yesterday. The crew did a 900 m section of shoreline using SCAT (Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique). An impacted area of 500-600 m was discovered. Rainbow sheen was observed when the beach was flushed. No subsurface oil was found deeper than 5 cm along the beach. Masse Environmental has a summary report of their SCAT findings.

Masse Environmental also took water samples yesterday and on Sunday. One sample was taken upstream, within the area of the spill and another was taken downstream. The samples will be sent to the lab tomorrow and results are expected by the end of the week.

The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) flew over the entirety of Kootenay Lake yesterday and used radar and cameras to assess the impact of the incident. The only product viewed in the lake was a residual sheen 50 ft downstream from the site. Tiny globules of oil were observed outside of the containment area. CCG reports that the containment boom might not be capturing the very small globules of oil that are potentially sinking below it and resurfacing outside. 

The Environmental Emergency Response Officer (EERO) with B.C. Ministry of Environment continues to monitor the incident, working with other federal, provincial and local governments to determine extent of impact on potential water intakes downstream. Current assessments indicate private water intakes may be closer than original findings but are below surface and not likely within reach of the small amounts of sheen from gear oil that is floating on the surface. Additional sampling will be conducted to confirm next steps.


April 17, 2017 - 8:40 am

The Kootenay Balfour Ferry was reported to be leaking gear oil on Saturday, April 15 while stationed near the Balfour Ferry Terminal. The Kootenay Balfour Ferry, operated by Western Pacific Marine, normally travels on a route between Balfour and Kootenay Bay on Kootenay Lake. 

It has been reported the maximum potential volume of gear oil that could have been spilled is approximately 400 – 500 L. The spill initially resulted in a rainbow sheen, with some concentrated areas of oil, extending at least 400m from the spill site. No oiled or distressed wildlife has been reported. 

Interior Health Authority has issued a Public Service Announcement cautioning recreational users to avoid a 400 m stretch of shoreline next to the Balfour Ferry Terminal. There are drinking water intakes nearby, though they are believed to be out of the range of impact.

As the responsible party, Western Pacific Marine has developed an incident action plan to clean up the spill. They have acquired a contractor, RAM Environmental Ltd., to support initial clean-up efforts. These efforts include; hand raking shoreline areas containing vegetation and woody debris and utilizing a series of river and absorbent boom, as well as absorbent pads to manage the spill.

Pea-size globules of oil continue to leak from under the vessel, though these are being captured by the booming in place. The most concentrated areas of gear oil were located amongst nearby docked vessels. This oil was recovered on Saturday, though a light silver sheen remained on Sunday. Natural attenuation (wave action combined with sunlight) continues to diminish overall impacts of oil sheen. Environmental consultants are developing an environmental remediation plan.

A scene assessment was conducted 1 km downstream by zodiac and no oil was observed beyond the original 400 m downstream. Local residents confirmed these observations. A Transport Canada surveillance aircraft is scheduled to be deployed today, Monday, April 17, to provide additional assessments, should they be required.
On Sunday, April 16, 2017 a multi-agency coordination conference call was hosted by Emergency Management B.C. (EMBC) at the request of B.C. Ministry of Environment with the following agencies attending: Western Pacific Marine, Canadian Coast Guard, Ministry of Transportation, Regional District of Central Kootenay, RAM Environmental Response, Masse Environmental, First Nations Health Authority, Interior Health Authority, Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation and B.C. Ministry of Environment. 
The B.C. Ministry of Environment (MOE) Environmental Emergency Response Officer (EERO) is working with the responsible party to ensure the waste management plan meets provincial requirements. B.C. MOE continues to monitor the actions of the responsible party while working closely with the Canadian Coast Guard as the lead federal agency for ship source spills.
Another multi-agency coordination call is scheduled for today at 4pm.



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