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Jet fuel spill raises concerns about proposed YVR project

A recent oil tanker truck spill near Castlegar has renewed concerns about a proposed jet fuel development on the Fraser River.

The facility, proposed by the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation (VAFFC), would store 80 million litres of jet fuel on the south arm of the Fraser River. Fuel, shipped in by ocean tankers, would be delivered to the airport via a new 15 kilometre pipeline replacing the current one, which is 40 km long and 43 years old.

"There are massive social and environmental risks in this project," stated independent MLA Vicki Huntington in a press release. "On a warm day, it would be nearly impossible to contain a tanker spill in the ecologically-fragile South Fraser."

Richmond city council also opposes the project.

But the VAFFC says safety is a fundamental priority. "The spill prevention and response strategies proposed for the Fraser River go well beyond industry standards and best practices," said VAFFC project manager Adrian Pollard in a written statement. He added that the risk of a spill would be low.

The VAFFC says YVR's current fuel delivery infrastructure is not enough to meet growing demand at the busy airport. Currently, 1,000 fuel trucks a month drive through Surrey, Delta and Richmond to bridge the gap not met by the existing infrastructure.

Last week, near Castlegar, a truck carrying 38,000 litres of jet fuel crashed and fell into Lemon Creek. The spill has killed thousands of fish in the area, and there are concerns for wildlife that may feed on them.

The Fraser River estuary is home to millions of migrating birds, five species of salmon, and a plethora of other wildlife. It's been designated by the United Nations as a Wetland of International Importance.

Maryse Zeidler is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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