First Nation says sunken tug being removed after 33 days in B.C. waters

By The Canadian Press
November 14, 2016 - 10:01am Updated: November 14, 2016 - 6:26pm

BELLA BELLA, B.C. — A sunken tug has been lifted from the waters off British Columbia's central coast more than a month after it ran aground and sank, releasing thousands of litres of fuel into the ocean.

The Heiltsuk First Nation says in a release that the Nathan E. Stewart was lifted from the Seaforth Channel near Bella Bell late Monday afternoon, and was suspended alongside a salvage barge.

The tug will be drained on the barge before being shipped to Vancouver.

According to the latest report, the vessel was loaded with 237,262 litres of diesel fuel when it hit the reef, spilling 107,552 litres of fuel and 2,240 litres of lubricants.

Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett says the First Nation is relieved that the boat is off of the ocean floor and is being removed from the region.

But she says the community still has a lot of clean-up work to do.

"We're feeling very uncertain about our future as we face the hard work of assessing the short and long-term environmental, cultural and economic impacts on our community," Slett says.

Jess Housty, an incident commander for the Heiltsuk First Nation, says intensive cleanup along the shoreline has not yet started because there was still danger that more pollution could escape the tug.

"It's been 33 really long days of seeing that vessel in the water, continuing to pollute our shores," Housty says.

The First Nation will do an independent investigation into the accident, Slett says, and she wants the various levels of government to make sure the community is taken care of, both in the short and long terms.

"The Heiltsuk people have lost the most in this disaster," she says. "Our governments have the responsibility to work with us to ensure our people's needs are met."

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