Nathan E Stewart

Bella Bella diesel spill: the aftermath

Kelly Brown was awoken at 4:30 a.m. on October 13, 2016, by the kind of phone call nobody ever wants to receive: an environmental catastrophe was unfolding a 20-minute boat ride up the coast from his home in the community of Bella Bella.

“I had to call this guy back because I wanted to make sure — because I’m half asleep — wanted to make sure that I heard him right, that there’s a tug that ran aground in our territory,” he recalls.

Brown is the director of the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management department, the branch of the Heiltsuk government in charge of the environmental stewardship of the First Nation’s traditional territory.

Two hours later he was on site with a team ready to respond.

“It was total chaos,” says hereditary chief Harvey Humchitt.

The Nathan E. Stewart, a 30-metre tugboat owned by the Kirby Corporation based in Houston, Texas, had failed to make a turn as it headed south. Instead, it ploughed into a reef. The barge it was pushing — a fuel barge with a capacity of 10,000 tons of fossil fuels, but which was mercifully empty — was caught on the reef while boats and ships of all sizes gathered to watch helplessly.

See the rest of the story here, or watch the video below.

Bella Bella Diesel Spill: The Aftermath

It has been one year since a tug boat ran aground near Bella Bella, B.C., spilling 110,000 litres of diesel fuel and contaminating local food sources. This week, DeSmog Canada visited the Heiltsuk First Nation and learned about the ongoing impacts of the spill — and the nation's battle for justice. "It took the spirit of a nation away," says first responder Russell Windsor.Read about the Heiltsuk's legal battle: up for free weekly headlines from DeSmog Canada:

Posted by DeSmog Canada on Saturday, October 14, 2017

Jimmy Thomson is a freelance journalist. He has worked as a CBC videojournalist and has bylines in the Globe and…

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