Squamish Fire Incident Public Information Update

ISSUED BY VANCOUVER COASTAL HEALTH, BC MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, SQUAMISH TERMINALS

(SQUAMISH, BC) – A series of environmental and health protection actions are well underway by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), the BC Ministry of Environment (MoE) and Squamish Terminals in immediate response to the dock fire in Squamish. A unified effort, in conjunction with the District of Squamish, has been underway since Thursday night as the parties work together to deal with the fire and its effects. Local First Nations’ interests have been assessed and evaluated throughout the process.

The fire is fully contained and efforts continue to focus on extinguishing the fire. Squamish Terminals has engaged Fraser River Pile & Dredge to dismantle the top of the berth to allow firefighters better access to the fire. The dismantling is well underway and it is hoped the fire may be extinguished by late Sunday.

Air quality and residual particulate matter effects

Both VCH and MoE have been conducting air quality monitoring in Squamish. The MoE continues to monitor ambient air quality using both portable and stationary continuous-read equipment at sampling points around Squamish for potential contaminants of concern.  MOE and VCH collaborate on results and will advise the public of any potential health concerns. Testing includes Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), which is a potential concern related to the Squamish fire, as well as PM2.5 readings that assess concentrations of fine particles in smoke and dust.

  • Volatile Organic Compounds monitoring results have been found to be well below health criterion.
  • Particulate monitoring results have been variable throughout the day and night depending on wind speed and direction.

The following outlines the direction that has been provided to the community throughout the response:

  • A shelter in place advisory was issued Thursday evening at the outset of the fire by the Medical Health Officer. This was lifted Friday morning based on acceptable air quality results from overnight monitoring.
  • MoE issued an Air Quality Advisory on Friday at 2 p.m. after particulate matter results exceeded the acceptable level for a 24-hour period. The Air Quality Advisory contained the following health recommendations:  

Persons with chronic underlying medical conditions should postpone strenuous exercise until the advisory is lifted. Staying indoors and in air conditioned spaces helps to reduce fine particulate exposure. Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have diabetes, and lung or heart disease.

The advisory also included an open burning restriction for the area within a 20 kilometre radius centred on Squamish Municipal Hall.

The Air Quality Advisory has been lifted as of noon today (Sunday).  Open burning restrictions remain in place.

MOE will continue monitoring air quality and upon review of results will determine when monitoring specific to the fire incident can conclude.

The results from air quality sampling (PM2.5 fine particulates) conducted within downtown Squamish (at the permanent monitoring station) and advisory information can be viewed at the following link: www.bcairquality.ca.

VCH’s Drinking Water Officer is confident the fire incident has posed no threat to the District of Squamish Water Supply systems. Water quality monitoring of the water supply is reviewed by the Drinking Water Officer. The District's drinking water comes from seven groundwater wells at Powerhouse Springs, and is a closed system allowing no contact with the open air.

Environmental monitoring and response

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, contracted by Squamish Terminals, continues to boom off sensitive habitat areas near the terminal to help protect them as the berth is dismantled. The booms will remain in place for as long as needed and are demonstrating 90% effectiveness in collecting debris.

Squamish Terminals has retained environmental consultants contracted to sample air quality, particulate matter deposits, marine life receptors, marine water quality and sediment impacts. Sampling has been initiated at multiple locations throughout the town including schools, a retirement residence and Squamish Nation Reserve Lands. An Environmental Monitoring Plan has been reviewed and approved by MoE and VCH. Monitoring and assessment is underway to determine whether any contaminants from a creosote-treated timber fire exist, which would require a response plan. Preliminary results will be available for analysis within 24 hours.

In the meantime, and in order to exercise an abundance of caution especially as it relates to children, Vancouver Coastal Health has made the following suggestions:

Garden Vegetables: It is recommended persons refrain from consuming garden vegetables until such time that environmental sampling results are known.

Playgrounds: It is recommended playground equipment and outdoor toy surfaces be hosed down within the area of the smoke plume.

Beaches: The Medical Health Officer supports advisories posted by the District of Squamish to suggest that water, beaches and waterfront areas be avoided until further notice due to the potential for debris and associated residuals.

In response, the District has mobilized to hose down playgrounds within the plume zone and is coordinating with the School District, private schools and daycares in advance of Monday morning. The District will provide updates at www.squamish.ca/dockfire as playgrounds are washed. 

Wildlife concerns are being considered and monitored. If the public observes any wildlife in distress, contact the Emergency Management BC Spill Reporting Line at 1-800-663-3456.

The situation has normalized enough for Squamish Terminals to gradually commence business operations, and the company remains in a position to respond immediately to ensure the health and safety of employees should the situation alter in any way. Work is currently isolated to the west dock, far removed from the damaged berth.

An Emergency Operations Centre has been operational since the fire began, led by the District of Squamish. Once Squamish Fire Rescue has extinguished the fire, the next phase of the response will transition solely to the environmental response effort, and will be coordinated by Squamish Terminals, MoE and VCH. Information and updates continue to be posted to www.squamish.ca/dockfire as well as the District of Squamish Facebook and Twitter pages.

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Media Contacts:

Squamish Terminals: Kim Stegeman, 604-880-6241, kim_stegeman@sqterminals.com

Vancouver Coastal Health Media Line: 604-202-2012

Ministry of Environment Communications: 250-953-3834

District of Squamish, Christina Moore, 604-389-8338, cmoore@squamish.ca

 

 

April 19, 2015

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Comments

  • Voytek Michalak Apr 20, 2015, 8:08 AM (6 years ago)

    Why is there no report on the toxicology of the substance burned? When will someone comment on the MSDS data sheet for Creosote and speak on the health effects?

  • District of Squamish communications Apr 19, 2015, 3:52 PM (6 years ago)

    Thanks Laura. Based on the Vancouver Coastal Health recommendation, the District of Squamish is first focusing efforts on the playgrounds geographically located within the primary smoke plume zone as identified by the Ministry of Environment.

    All schools have been notified of the recommendation, and the District of Squamish will work with the School District to ensure all affected playgrounds are rinsed.

  • Laura Lee Apr 19, 2015, 3:45 PM (6 years ago)

    Thank you for the playground updates. What about the valleycliff playgrounds? The smoke smell was quite strong there for several days.

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