Bob Wallas with one of several metal barrels of acetone he found in the bush near Coal Harbour.

Illegal dump spurs investigation

Who must remove barrels of solvent discovered hidden in the bush

COAL HARBOUR — Bob Wallas was frustrated in his attempts to get someone from government to get rid of several decomposing, industrial-sized  metal containers of a caustic solvent someone dumped in the bush.

Now the regional district and the Mounties are looking into the matter.

Wallas said he was walking his dogs about 50 metres down a logging road that runs off Coal Harbour Road, just beyond the Quatsino Reserve, when he spotted about a half-dozen 45-gallon barrels with stickers identifying the contents as acetone.

It appears the containers were simply dumped in the area, and the 58-year-old Coal Harbour man suspects there may be more buried under a hill of foliage very close to the visible barrels, some of which have rusted through.

“I’m curious to know how many barrels are really under there,” said Wallas, who also pointed out a few tubs ofdiscarded gear oil in the immediate area.

“It looks like someone took pains to hide them.”

There are no clear markings on the barrels that identify where they may have originated or where or if they were used locally.

Acetone, a highly flammable solvent, dissipates slowly in soil, but it’s a significant groundwater contaminant due to its high solubility in water.

Common wisdom is acetone may pose a significant risk of oxygen depletion in aquatic systems because of the microbial activity consuming it.

“There’s a marsh nearby and fish-bearing creeks and streams in the area,” he told the Gazette.

Wallas said he also believes the solvent could pose a risk to wildlife and called for help.

“I talked to a local (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) person, but he showed no interest at all and told me to call Environment Canada,” he said.

“At that point I felt it was a waste of time.”

Calls by the Gazette to Environment Canada were not returned by press time.

Someone who answered the phoned at DFO said reacting to things like the acetone is not their department, however they would back whatever decision Environment Canada made.

Meanwhile, Patrick Donaghy, manager of operations for the Regional District of Mount Waddington said he wants to know about finds like the acetone.

“When members of the public see something like that we’re interested because we want to work towards cracking down on illegal waste disposal,” he said.

“In many ways, it falls outside our legal area, but we work with the Ministry of the Environment, the conservation officers, DFO and the Ministry of Forests.”

Donaghy, who figures the barrels were dumped fairly recently, said he’s going to look around to see what kinds of businesses would use that much acetone.

The Port Hardy RCMP is also looking into the illegal dumping, in case there’s a connection between the acetone and a possible drug lab.


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