|Wednesday, July 18, 1951
|The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
|Page 3, col. 3
Parry Sound oil cleanup nears end
Throw oil on the troubled waters,the adage say. Parry Sound thinks differently. So does Imperial Oil Ltd. The waters of the Sound were quite untroubled until the oil flowed across them. Now the trouble is to get rid of the oil. Imperial Oil is spending $6,000 a week to do this.
Last Sept. 17, an Imperial Oil Storage tank bursy and 2,186,000 gallons of bunker fuel escaped into Parry Sound harbor. A foot-deep slick reached a quarter=mile into the bay. The break was a freak accident. The tank had been built on top of an old sewer, which caved in, buckling the tank's bottom plate. The oil gushed—uncontrollable.
Imperial was faced with an unexperienced emergency. Not only was the spillage a loss, but it threatened to destroy the beauty, bathing and fishing of the Sound.
Company executives were naturally anxious to recapture as much oil as possible. But they also felt a moral obligation to repair as much of the damage as possible, Frank Prendergast, vice-president, said.
Nine months later, the company is still working on the problem. At present, Imperial has 150 men and a great deal of equipment engaged in the odd and difficult task of housecleaning Parry Sound inlet. So far, 45,000 man hours have been devoted to it.
The job has called for ingenuity. Consulting engineers could offer no advice. The men on the spot have had to extemporize as they went along.
The night the tank burst, 245,000 gallons were recovered when the Imperial Midland, which had been discharging fuel, reserved her pumps. The Imperial Cobourh hastened to the scene to assist the next day. But a storm that night broke the boom confining the oil. Wind scattered the concentration five miles down the Sound into shallow inlet where the tankers could not go.
Heavy duty pumps, mounted on barges from Collingwood, Penetang, and Sarnia, resumed work on the large concentrations at Andy's Boathouse, pumping through a temporary pipeline to railway tank cars. Then they were moved to Rose Point and Perrault's Inlet.
These pumps continued until freeze-up wherever slicks were near the railway. The pumping was a skimming job and could not go too fast or the pumps would suck water. Some 142 carloads were lifted. It is estimated more than 80 per cent of the bunker crude was retrieved. This was sent to the refinery at Sarnia.
Meanwhile, wherever they collected, mainly at the foot of bays, slicks were boomed off. These were many.
To get at the remaining slicks, shallow-draft barges were specially built during the winter. In spring, after much trial and error, which included an attempt to burn away the oil with flame-throwers, a method was settled on to remove these slicks. It was found that when the concentrations drifted near shore and mixed with dirt and sand, the oil eventually sank. The barges then move in, and their crews proceed to rake the oil from the bottom to shore, where it is scraped up and removed to a dump purchased for the purpose. It is a tedious, slow task.
Cleaning the dirty black residue from the granite of the harbor and shoreline posed another problem. A Camp Borden army demonstration crew tried to burn it off with flame-workers, but found the oil merely fried on the rocks. Besides, the Department of Lands and Forests thought the danger of firing the bush too great.
At last some one hit upon a method which has led to one of the most bizarre sights in Northern Ontario this summer—gangs of men steam-cleaning acres of granite rock.
The fisherman, stealing along the shore of a cove to snare the wily bass may suddenly be confronted with a raucous noise and a picture he normally associates with city life. But instead of seeing men suspended halfway up a building cleaning away urban grime, he sees one of nine barged-mounted steam jenny's, its crew busily blasting away the oil scum form the rock shelf where he was about to cast his plug.
Many cottagers have been surprised to find find sand beaches where there had been pebble ones before. After bull-dozing the oil soaked beaches, the company imported sand to replace them. At the municipal beach a weekly patrol is kept. Every time another slick drifts in, the process is repeated.
In all, about 70 cottages and resorts were affected by the spillage, some of them on islands, in which cases, the entire periphery has been cleaned up. The company has repaired or replaced all damaged dock facilities. From Sarnia, a maaster painted was brought in, and all boats have had their hulls refinished.
Imperial Oil has also retained a water pollution expert. However, despite every effort—and the main waters of the Sound are no free of oil—there remains in many places a thin film. This has not enhanced swimming. One woman complained it took her half an hour to wash the oil off after a swim.
Nevertheless, most of Parry Sound agrees the company has more than met its obligations. Company officials cannot say how long the housecleaning job may take, but declare it will go on until conditions are satisfactory to every one.