Politicians and industry have not been honest about the risks from oil spills

Dr. Riki Ott shares lessons from Exxon Valdez spill with Vancouver residents
Nicky Young

In the days and weeks following the fuel spill in Vancouver’s English Bay on April 8, many of the words reverberating around community events and even in media were the same: unprepared, unacceptable, and embarrassing.

The lesson that many took away from the relatively small spill is that we can’t rely on those responsible, or even those in charge, to protect us when disaster strikes. We need to prepare ourselves on a community level.

That’s why, in the wake of the spill of 2,700 litres of bunker fuel into Vancouver waters, locals called in marine toxicologist and spill expert Dr. Riki Ott. She lived for years in Cordova, Alaska, near the site of the devastating 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. She also spent a year in the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill.

Ricochet’s Nicky Young spoke with Dr. Ott on June 6, after an afternoon workshop at St. James Community Hall in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood.

Communities are not ready to clean up an industrial accident, said Dr. Ott. “What we’re hoping from this workshop then is ... that we can move these ideas that we’re starting to learn into next steps, into actual concrete spill response planning” and “we really start pushing the burden of these activities, the risk, back onto the oil industry.”

“The politicians and industry have not been very honest about the risks.”

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