The City of Kamloops temporarily shut down its water treatment plant on Thursday after diesel was detected in the South Thompson River.
City utility services manager Greg Wightman said the approximate two-hour shutdown was undertaken out of an “abundance of caution,” with no health risk to the city’s water supply, situated downstream.
The city got word of the incident from the Ministry of Environment spill response team around 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, after the ministry was notified via its spill response call-in line. Wightman said the city immediately jumped into its emergency response process, shutting down the water treatment plant on River Street and working with the ministry to determine the size of the spill.
Kamloops Fire Rescue personnel viewed the diesel by boat.
“After seeing the size and working closely with the Ministry of Environment and Interior Health, we didn’t feel that the size of the spill was going to cause any health concerns for water, as far as the water intake,” Wightman said.
No precise quantity has been determined, but sporadic spotting was identified floating on the water’s surface, similar to the appearance of oil. In addition to the small quantity, the floating nature of diesel also lessened the impacts, with the water intake below the water.
The water treatment plant was closed from approximately 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Residents would not have noticed water supply impacts. Wightman said the city’s reservoirs were “quite high” at the time, about 80 per cent full or more, due to summer reserves stockpiled in case of wildfires.
“Essentially, we stopped producing water for about an hour-and-a-half, two hours, but we were still able to supply everyone and the city with water, using the water that was in the reservoirs,” he said. “I don’t think anyone would have seen any impacts at all yesterday. There wouldn’t have been any drop in water pressure, or volume, or quantity. Nothing. And absolutely no health impacts at all.”
The diesel was determined to be entering the river from a drainage outfall — essentially an open pipe that dumps catch basin and manhole drainage into the South Thompson — at the end of Peter Road in Valleyview.
“We know the area, certainly, but what caused that, we’re leaving that with the Ministry of Environment to determine at this point,” Wightman said.
KTW is awaiting a call back from the Ministry of Environment.