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GN gives court-ordered update on Rankin Inlet fuel spill

“Operator error” led to 18,400-litre spill
The Government of Nunavut has released an update on the fuel spill at Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik in 2020. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

The Government of Nunavut was court ordered in April 2022 to disclose the circumstances of the 2020 fuel spill at Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik (MUI) in Rankin Inlet, and six months later, the GN came out with a press release offering some unclear details.

The release, dated Oct. 20 but distributed on Oct. 21, says that the GN has concluded its investigation into an April 17, 2020 fuel spill at MUI.

According to the GN, “a sub-contractor did not complete a contract during the installation of a fuel system at the MUI before an automated fuel transfer component could be installed.”

It is not immediately obvious what this sentence means, and Kivalliq News has reached out to the GN for clarification.

The release goes on to say, “This resulted in CGS (Community and Government Services) staff having to manually transfer diesel fuel from one tank to another using a pump and valve.”

That’s when “operator error” occurred, resulting in the fuel tank overflowing from April 16, 2020 in the afternoon until the morning of April 17, 2020, when the incident was discovered by school staff.

CGS was notified and arrived to correct the issue, as fuel overflow was running through a drain in the floor and into the municipal utilidor system.

The news release states that CGS notified authorities, including the hamlet, fire department, Department of Environment and the minister of environment on April 17.

Fuel passed through Johnston Cove lift station and the wastewater treatment plant before being discharged into Hudson Bay, where CGS estimates 18,400 litres of fuel went into the water.

Later in the news release, the GN says it is taking some steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again, including having installed a new dual-line closed fuel system to prevent tank overflow and a pump timer for manual transfers that shuts the pump off.

“The tank-filling procedure has been updated to require a second employee to log the fuel-tank activity has been completed,” the GN stated.

CGS is now compliant with closed fuel system requirements, according to the territorial government.

The GN was ordered to pay $100,000 after pleading guilty to one offence under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, in violation of subsection 2.1 of the Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum Products and Allied Petroleum Products Regulations.

Part of the court order was to “disclose the circumstances of the incident to Rankin Inlet residents, ensuring that all community members who may have been adversely affected by the (fuel) release are aware of the details of the release, potential impacts on the environment and what steps have been taken to prevent a recurrence.”

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