Oil Spill in Sept-Îles Bay
On September 1, 2013, an estimated 450 000 litres of heavy fuel oil was spilled in Sept-Îles. As the spill was from a land-based source, the lead environmental response agency was the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement, de la Faune et des Parcs du Québec. Fisheries and Oceans Canada acted as a responder in line with its areas of activity and was represented by its North Shore Area office in Sept-Îles.
Sept-Îles Bay is an aquatic environment extremely rich in marine wildlife. Its many cordgrass marshes and eelgrass beds make it a significant habitat for several shellfish, crustacean and fish species, such as the Tomcod, Smelt and Flounder. Juvenile cod and several forage species, such as the Stickleback and Sand Shrimp, have also been caught there through experimental fisheries in recent years. The habitats affected by the spill include some key Sept-Îles Bay habitats: the eelgrass bed and salt marsh were partially covered in oil.Although booms were installed around the pollution source in the hours following the incident, some oil escaped because of strong easterly winds. The pollution was contained to the southwest portion of the bay for the first 48 hours, contaminating an approximately seven-kilometre area of the bed and salt marsh. In the days that followed, winds scattered oil spilled from the booms, namely oil or heavy fuel oil patches, over a large portion of the bay.
Following this environmental incident, Fisheries and Oceans Canada closed recreational and commercial fisheries as a preventive measure. The mussel aquaculture site located in Sept-Îles was also closed as a preventive measure, and follow-ups will be performed before any of these fisheries are reopened.
The spill occurred where the Cliffs Natural Resources facilities are located in Pointe-Noire, Sept-Îles, when petroleum products were being transferred between tanks. Most of the spilled fuel oil remained in the secondary containment basin. However, an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 litres reached Sept-Îles Bay.
Over 200 people, some 20 boats and nearly 10 kilometres of booms, as well as helicopters, airplanes, heavy machinery and 8 propane cannons were deployed 24 hours a day to recover the fuel oil and keep birds at a distance. Recovery operations ended on October 23, 2013. Environmental monitoring of the banks of the Sept-Îles Bay continues regularly to enable recovery of material discharged by the tides. Furthermore, biomass studies will be carried out by responsible authorities.
Martin St-Gelais, Director
North Shore Area