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Heiltsuk Nation sues Kirby, governments over Nathan E. Stewart spill

Oct 11, 2018 09:39 AM

The plaintiff says the spill response showed 'shockingly little regard for the health and safety our people'

Courtesy Heiltsuk Nation

(VANCOUVER, British Columbia) — The Heiltsuk Nation is suing the operator of a tugboat that grounded and spilled thousands of gallons of diesel into waters near Bella Bella in 2016, and is also suing the provincial and federal governments in connection with the accident, CBC News reported.

Nathan E. Stewart, owned by Kirby Corp., ran aground in the Seaforth Channel on Oct. 13, 2016. The Heiltsuk Nation says the spill contaminated valuable clam beds worth up to $200,000 annually to the indigenous community.

"The governments of B.C. and Canada, and their agencies, and the polluter — the Kirby Corp. — responded slowly, ineffectively, and with shockingly little regard for the health and safety of our people and our way of life," said Marilyn Slett, a Heiltsuk Nation elected chief councilor. "We are seeking compensation for cultural and financial losses, associated with harvesting and cultural disruptions, and the cost of environmental testing."

Initial response efforts to the fuel spill were marred by poor weather conditions. It took hours for local response crews to arrive on scene, and heavy winds pushed the initial containment boom out of place.

Chief Harvey Humchitt says the Heiltsuk Nation was misinformed about how serious the incident was.

"We were initially given the wrong location. When we arrived, we were not told or given any resources and when materials and crews did arrive they were ill-equipped and disorganized," he said.

Click here to read the story.

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