A slap at Mother Nature

Castlegar News bi-weekly columnist Karen Haviland weighs in on the July 26 spill of jet fuel into the Slocan's Lemon Creek

Karen Haviland contributes a bi-weekly column to the Castlegar News

If you’re expecting the usual Karen Haviland column you can forget it. No stories about growing up, no stories about the 60s, and no joking in this column. This is a much different sort of column.

My husband and I usually camp four or five days out of the week. We happen to be friends with the owners of a large parcel of land beside the Slocan River close to Winlaw. They have been extremely generous with sharing this pristine piece of land with us and we have enjoyed beautiful sunsets, wildlife in its own element and the unspoiled beauty of the Slocan River.

Wait. Did I say “unspoiled beauty of the Slocan River?” Sorry about that. I should have said that in the past tense.

As most of you are aware, there was a spill of 35,000 litres of jet fuel into Lemon Creek, Friday, July 26. Lemon Creek flows into the Slocan River and is only a short distance from where we camp.

We just happened to be camping there when the spill occurred and first heard about the spill from a friend around 6 p.m. Evidently, and according to various news services, the spill occurred sometime between 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. It wasn’t until later, until around 10 p.m. that we got official notice that there was, indeed, a spill. We were sitting around the campfire when an official came to our site and advised us that there was an evacuation notice. We chose to assess the situation ourselves and only leave should the situation call for it. We weren’t being foolish, we fully weighed the information we had accumulated and made an educated decision to hold firm unless otherwise dictated. Lucky for us, that was a correct decision.

The next morning greeted us with brilliantly blue skies and warm sunshine. Looking around it was almost impossible to believe that a true environmental disaster had occurred just kilometers up the road from us. After all, the sun was still shining and the beautiful Slocan River still flowed by, apparently unaffected by the spill.

But that was a foolish dream. While the river still looks pristine, the spill just didn’t magically disappear like a puff of smoke.

Instead thousands of people were affected by the spill.

At a meeting at Winlaw Hall July 31, residents became fully aware of what, exactly, they can expect over the next few weeks, or months. In fact, no one is certain at this point of the full environmental impact the spill will have upon those residing in the Slocan Valley. They were warned that no one should be buying vegetables from any nearby commercial farms, nor do many have the use of water. Not for drinking, bathing, flushing the toilet or feeding their livestock. Those poor souls have to rely on portable water tanks brought in to help alleviate the situation.

There are numerous YouTube videos taken by amateurs that show dead fish, belly up in Lemon Creek. One can only begin to imagine what that can mean, if not for now, but for the future.

I’m not Henny Penny, clucking around and heralding that the sky is falling. But I am a human being who values Mother Earth and her offerings. I’m not a hippy hugging the trees and singing Kum ba Yah. But I am a person who knows the environment is precious to all of us.

Right now there is plenty of finger pointing and blame going around. That is not the answer.

There is a Facebook page called Slocan Valley Emergency Response – set up by someone seeking to gather all valid information regarding the spill.

A poster on that site suggested that now is not the time for recrimination and finger-pointing, but rather a time for the community to pull together to seek the truth behind the impact of the spill and then work together for a positive outcome. I couldn’t agree more.

To the residents of the Slocan Valley, I offer my meager condolences. It’s not as if someone has died. But the reign of the Slocan River as being one of the cleanest in the Canada has come to an end. Let’s all hope that solutions are found and that the Slocan River can once again claim its title.

If you want to help, please visit http://www.slocanriverstreamkeepers.com/ a   non-profit society which works towards protection and restoration of streams, streambeds and riparian zones.

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