Vavenby cut off from water source after diesel spill

By Jill Sperling
January 18, 2017 - 5:30pm Updated: January 19, 2017 - 11:21am

VAVENBY — When a semi truck crashed into the North Thompson River near Avola late Monday afternoon about 800 litres of diesel fuel spilled into the water. 

Many communities rely on the river as a source of drinking water. 

On Tuesday, a Do Not Use order was issued for residents living along the 40 km stretch downstream from the spill site. 

Josh Dohms lives right beside the North Thompson River in Vavenby. 

"I've got a small well, probably about 50 feet off of the river shore here, and just draw from that," Dohms said. "So, it would be from the same water table, but you know, filtered through whatever ground source that would be." 

Dohms is still consuming his well water, but residents who draw water from the river have been ordered not to use the water. 

"We shut our pumps down last night, but we turned them back on again this morning because they were at 10 per cent," said Carol Schaffer, TNRD Area 'A' Director, "Before anybody can drink that water we have to flush the system and test it again, and that will be done before anybody does drink it." 

"We're actively taking samples from the water distribution system," said TNRD Director of Environmental Services, Jake Devlin, "doing local testing, and also detailed testing for laboratory samples that will be going to Vancouver. Those will take about 24 hours to get those results." 

The samples will determine whether the water is safe for consumption, but according to Interior Health's Manager of Strategic Initiatives, Dan Ferguson, the best detectors of diesel are your own senses. 

"If you see it or smell or taste it, you are very unlikely to consume it, that's on the good side," Ferguson said. "Normal effects would be gastrointestinal upset, that type of thing, but there's also concerns with the absorption of diesel fuel through the skin, so we don't even recommend showering."

The TNRD, Interior Health, and the Ministry of Environment are closely monitoring the situation as cleanup efforts continue. It's not known how long it will take before the water is once again safe to consume because the fuel is getting trapped in the ice. 

However, water is being shipped in from the District of Clearwater. 

Bottled water was also available at the Vavenby Fire Hall. 

A public meeting was scheduled for affected residents at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Vavenby Community Hall. 

Avalanche warning issued for parts of northern British Columbia and Alberta