Parks Canada staff were on scene Thursday for an unusual spill on the Yellowhead Highway approximately 850 metres east of the intersection with Hazel Avenue.
While swerving to avoid wildlife on the road near midnight on Feb. 15, a transport truck driver tipped over a 1,000-litre container of crude pollock (fish) oil. The full liquid contents of the container spilled out, leaking out onto the roadway.
“The initial interview with the driver was that he had swerved to avoid a deer on the road and understood that he had missed the animal,” said Dave Argument, Jasper National Park’s resource conservation manager.
Joining Parks Canada’s highway response team were members of the RCMP and the Jasper Fire Department, who worked to help scoop up the thickened fish oil and deposit it into repurposed blue barrels.
Responders also worked to wash the oil off the roadway while also deploying oil absorbent booms in an attempt to prevent any further oil from going down the embankment.
Those blue barrels were still labeled with their original contents – antifreeze – leading some members of the public to suggest to the Fitzhugh that the spill was more chemical in nature. Yellow bags stamped with the letters “HAZ” were also observed.
Parks Canada confirmed that this spill was not chemical. Staff clean out and utilize those barrels for clean-up purposes.
“They just make ideal receptacles, of course, for actually containing the spilled material in the course of the immediate incident response,” Argument said. “There was no antifreeze spilled at the site.”
Calls to Alberta-based Sher Singh Logistics, the transport company involved, did not go through.
A spill remediation company was on scene by mid-Thursday, working to complete the clean-up. The effort is expected to continue at least for the next few days.
Argument said that he hoped that the winter conditions would keep the fish oil from seeping into the ground off of the asphalt. Most of it initially looked to either be on the road or mixed in with the snow.
“We’ll find on more detailed investigation if that hasn’t penetrated the soil there, which will simplify certainly the clean-up and remediation,” he added.
The highway department also sanded the area thoroughly to improve traction.
Wildlife conflict staff members also responded to the scene in the late morning for a report of an injured elk off to the side of the road west of the Hazel Avenue intersection. The animal did need to be euthanized and removed from the scene as per Parks Canada’s standard protocol.
Argument said that Parks Canada doesn’t typically charge drivers related to wildlife strikes on the highway, as those incidents are considered accidental.
A large herd of elk was observed in that same area on the weekend prior. Argument noted that the large congregation of wildlife frequently crosses back and forth across the highway.
He offered a reminder of road safety.
“As always traveling through the park and especially at night, and especially with winter driving conditions, we encourage drivers to really drive within reasonable safe speeds and remain vigilant for wildlife crossing the road and other associated hazards as they travel through the park,” he said.
At least, he said, this occurred when other wildlife was still in full hibernation mode.
“We’re fortunate… that this has happened in winter conditions where [the oil] has congealed on the surface or thickened, and the bears aren’t out because I can’t imagine the attraction this would offer to bears if they were out and about when this stuff hit the road.”
By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Feb 17, 2023
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