A view of Shuswap Lake with Canoe Forest Products in the foreground.

Company takes responsibility for spill into Shuswap Lake

By Wednesday afternoon, Interior Health had given the City of Salmon Arm the go-ahead to resume taking water from the lake.

A March 14 spill into Shuswap Lake of run-off water containing glue and fuel products from the Canoe Forest Products’ plywood plant is now being investigated by Environment Canada.

In a public statement, Canoe Forest Products admits there was a leak but calls reports of thousands of litres entering the lake inaccurate.

According to their release, evidence of a leak and water accumulation in the plant’s glue room was spotted on March 7.

While the leak was being investigated, the increased volume of water was pumped out of the glue pit to collection vats outside, with some of the water likely escaping from there and reaching the lake.  “We have established the origin of the water leak that led to this discharge, and repaired the leak,” said Marcello Angelozzi, Canoe FP’s operations manager. “There is no longer any water being discharged from the plant. We are now working with provincial and federal agencies to determine what, if any, impacts there are as a result of this incident.”

Following an initial investigation Tuesday afternoon by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Conservation Officer Service, Interior Health issued a public service bulletin saying “an estimated thousands of litres” had been washed into the lake.

As a precaution, the City of Salmon Arm switched to an alternative water source, drawing it from East Canoe Creek.

As well, Interior Health advised residents who draw water from the lake to avoid doing so. And the health authority cautioned members of the public to avoid recreational use within 300 metres of the log booms – including boating, fishing or swimming, until it could be confirmed there is no risk to public health.

By Wednesday afternoon, Interior Health had reduced the limit extending it to only 100 metres from the log booms but advised private water users to continue to get their water elsewhere.

The city was also given the go-ahead to resume taking water from the lake.

“Given the location of this intake to the spill site, there is virtually no risk to health and safety of residents from this spill,” notes Wednesday’s Interior Health release.

Jeff Lipsett,  Canoe Forest Products forestry superintendent offered an apology to the people of Salmon Arm.

“Canoe Forest Products regrets any impacts, however temporary, on the people of Salmon Arm, and applauds Interior Health and the City of Salmon Arm in taking the extraordinary precautions they did to ensure any possible public health impacts were minimized.

A request for information from Environment Canada was not forthcoming before press time.