Seaforth Channel Incident

Incident Start Date
October 13, 2016 01:13

Current Date/Time
November 20, 2016 17:00

Next Situation Report

Seaforth Channel, approximately 11nm west of Bella Bella

The tug Nathan E. Stewart and Barge DBL 55 ran hard aground on the rocks at 10/13/16 (01:13 PDT). The unit was located in Canadian Waters at 52.14.46N, 128.23.16W at the entrance to Seaforth Channel. The barge DBL 55 free floated from the rocks on the same day, 13 October, at 19:00 PDT. As of 14 November 2016 at 16:09 PST, the tug Nathan E. Stewart was removed from the sea floor and secured to a transport barge. As a result of the initial tug grounding, diesel fuel and other lubricants were released from the tug Nathan E. Stewart.

The tug was loaded with 237,262 litres of diesel fuel at the time of the grounding.  Total recovered volume from the tug is 107,552 litres of diesel and  3,668 litres of lubricants (lube oil, hydraulic oil, gear oil, and spent lube).

On 19 November 2016 at 08:00 PST, the tug Nathan E. Stewart arrived in Surrey to await inspection.

• Ensure the safety of public and response personnel
• Provide proper PPE to all Personnel
• Secure the vessel and refloat/remove from the marine environment
• Control the source
• Containment & collection during repositioning & lifting operation
• Maximize protection of environmentally-sensitive areas, prioritizing of sample collection
• Contain, Recover and Dispose of Spilled Material
• Remove oil from impacted areas
• Recover and rehabilitate impacted wildlife
• Manage coordinated response effort
• Keep the public & stakeholders informed of response activities
• Clear and consistent communication to the community
• Minimize economic impacts from the spill to the Heiltsuk community and the environment
• Minimize local business interruption
• Maintain focus on mitigating and assessing environmental damage
• Assess damage to the habitat and develop a restoration plan pursuant to SARA Certificate

Unified Command
Jess Housty (Heiltsuk Nation Incident Commander)
Phil Murdock (Federal Incident Commander)
Graham Knox (Provincial Incident Commander)
Todd Behlke (Responsible Party Incident Commander)


• Safety protocols remain in place.
• All incidents must be reported immediately by supervisors so an adequate safety investigation can be completed.

• The fisheries closure for bivalve shellfish fisheries in the Seaforth Channel and Gale Passage remains in place.
• For more information contact: Elysha Gordon 250-756-7192

• The ICP has been scaled down but continues to operate out of the Heiltsuk Nation Tribal Council chambers.


On Scene Safety
• All vessels approved by UC are operational.
• 200 meter exclusion zone around original casualty site will be enforced during dive operations.

Salvage Ops
• Salvage operations are considered complete with the arrival of the tug Nathan E. Stewart to the shipyard in Surrey on 19 November 2016.
• Spill response vessels have been mostly demobilized and will be fully demobilized by end of day Sunday, 20 November. All protective boom has been removed.

Air Operations
• Air Operations will continue on an as needed basis until weekly sampling has concluded.
• NASP overflights of the area will continue as part of regularly scheduled reconnaissance flights.

• Response assets continue to be decontaminated and demobilized as necessary and should complete today. Assets required for the project phase will be remobilized as required


• The first water samples were collected by a coordinated effort between Cardno, Pacificus, and Heiltsuk First Nation members 14 October 2016, the day after the incident. Water, sediment, vegetation, and tissue samples were collected by these same representatives (subject to weather and tides) from 14 October through to the approval of the Ephemeral Sampling Plan.
• The Ephemeral Sampling Plan was signed by the Unified Command on 7 November 2016. Sample collection continues to be performed with three teams of samplers from the Heiltsuk First Nation, B.C. Ministry of Environment, and Cardno.
o The Plan identifies 12 clam beaches, identified by members of the Heiltsuk First Nation, as index sites that are representative of areas most likely to be impacted by the incident. In addition to the 12 index sites, 9 additional clam beaches were identified to be sampled as opportunistic sites.
o Water, sediment, vegetation and animal tissue is collected at each of these 21 sites on a regular basis.
o According to the plan, each index site is to be visited 7 times after the Nathan E. Stewart has been removed from the water. Once these sites have been sampled 7 times, each index site will be sampled weekly until they have three consecutive weeks of samples with no exceedances of Provincial or Federal ecological guidelines. It is anticipated weekly sampling will start the week of 4 December.
• To date 168 sampling events have occurred at 27 different locations, including the index sites, opportunistic sites, and sites initially sampled after the incident occurred. In addition to implementing the sampling plan, samples were collected during SCAT and reconnaissance missions that included a Fast Assessment Strike Team (FAST) boat that was called when sheen was reported. These missions occurred when the Nathan E. Stewart was still in the water and lasted until the Nathan E. Stewart left the area. A total of 28 samples were collected by samplers imbedded with the SCAT teams, 22 samples collected by the reconnaissance teams and 14 samples collected by the Fast Assessment Strike Team (FAST) response boat.
• Throughout the course of the response, legal samples were taken by B.C. Ministry of Environment representatives when required. The legal samples were collected and maintained in accordance with protocol.
• Results of all samples taken will be summarized and shared with the public in January or early February unless sample results are received that warrant an immediate notification. In this case, those results will be communicated immediately.
• A draft table of contents of an Environmental and Human Health Impact Assessment (EHHIA) has been developed by Cardno on behalf of Kirby Offshore Marine, and shared on November 18 with representatives from Heiltsuk First Nation, B.C. Ministry of Environment, Environment Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, First Nations Health Authority, and other agencies and parties. The comments have been invited on the draft table of contents, and some components described in the document are already underway. A facilitated meeting will take place in Bella Bella, B.C. on 30 November 2016 to review comments on the draft table of contents of the EHHIA and discuss content, participation, and the process moving forward.
• The draft table of contents

• Pre-SCAT Activity began on 14 October 2016 by means of overflight by trained SCAT professionals. Beginning 15 October, SCAT teams conducted ground surveys of areas believed to be impacted based on eye witness field reporting from vessels and aircraft, areas identified by Unified Command, and areas identified by Heiltsuk First Nation representatives. Surveys were conducted daily as allowable by weather restrictions. Pre-SCAT surveys covered 295,863 meters (295 km). Findings were as follows:
o Light Oil Observed: 2,064 meters (2 km)
o Very Light Oil Observed: 11,413 meters (11.4km)
o No Oil Observed: 282,387 meters (282.4km)
All areas wherein treatment recommendations were provided by the SCAT team were carried out.
• SCAT activity began following the removal of the tug from the sea floor on 14 November. SCAT surveyed 53,212 meters (53.2km) of shoreline during this period. Findings were as follows:
o No Oil Observed: 51,446 meters (51.4km)
o Recommended Re-survey: 1,766 meters (1.8km)
o The section of shoreline noted for re-survey was completed on 19 November and denoted as “no oil observed”
• The SCAT teams were stood down effective 20 November. In the event future SCAT activities are required, SCAT teams can be reactivated within 24-48 hours.
• The Heiltsuk UC representative has not signed off on any of the SCAT daily reports as Heiltsuk does not agree that SCAT procedures were adequately followed. Heiltsuk’s concerns regarding SCAT will be put on the record in the form of a letter.

• Wildlife monitoring began on 14 October 2016 and continued until 18 November (4 days post removal of the tug from the sea floor) as per the Wildlife Monitoring Plan.
• During the course of Wildlife Monitoring, some deceased animals were collected and sent for necropsy. Some oiled wildlife was observed in the course of the response but was unable to be collected.
• Wildlife monitoring has now shifted to the Carcass Recovery phase. Surveying and carcass collection will occur as per the Wildlife Monitoring Plan.

• The Archaeology Team is continuing to observe sites and areas according the archaeology plan and will do so until complete. At present, the Archeology Team expects to complete observations when daily sampling concludes on or around 01 December 2016. Results and findings will be provided to the Environmental Unit and Unified Command and shared with the public as warranted and at the discretion of the Heiltsuk First Nation.

• Cultural briefings are available for all incoming personnel.
• Spill information website has been activated This website will remain active but will not be updated after 22 November 2016. At that time, all future communicaitons and updates will be provided through alternate communication avenues.

General Unified Command Message

It is expected that the “On Water Response”‎ portion of the Seaforth Channel Incident will end on Tuesday November 22nd at the end of the day. As such, Unified Command has unanimously agreed the Incident Command Post in Bella Bella will close at that time. The Incident itself, of course, will not be complete, however; the Unified Command and Environmental Unit will continue to meet virtually ‎as necessary. Members of the Unified Command and Environmental Unit are meeting in Bella Bella on 30 November to discuss the EHHIA table of contents.