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Coast guard struggles to find volunteers for oil spill training

Emily Ridlington
Northern News Services
Published Monday, January 10, 2011

The Canadian Coast Guard now has oil spill kits in place in 15 communities across the territory, but training on how to use the equipment remains a challenge.

"It's about getting people engaged and volunteering for this type of training and we're running up against a bit of a lack of availability," said Larry Trigatti, coast guard superintendent of environmental response in the central and Arctic region.

The last of the oil spill kits or "Arctic community packs" was delivered at the beginning of October.

Pangnirtung, Coral Harbour, Kimmirut, Chesterfield Inlet, Baker Lake, Iqaluit, Pond Inlet, Hall Beach, Qikiqtarjuaq, Resolute, Rankin Inlet, Clyde River, Cape Dorset, Cambridge Bay and Arctic Bay all received a kit.

Each kit contains the same basic elements but has been tailored to each community's individual needs.

Trigatti said each pack has a boom - a floating barrier or fence to keep the oil in a contained area or away from an area. Depending on its length, the boom could cost anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000. There is also a shoreline kit containing picks, shovels and rakes to help clean up debris, costing approximately $10,000. The third item is a beach flush kit at about $20,000 a piece.

In August, 17 Canadian Rangers participated in an oil spill response exercise in Resolute as part of Operation Nanook, the annual Canadian Forces sovereignty exercise, where they were trained how to use the beach flush kit.

He said after the exercise, there still needs to be some more tweaking done before training can be extended to other communities. The content of the kits varies because it also depends on how and where fuel is unloaded.

"There is no simple formula and (it depends) on the shoreline type and immediate environment," Trigatti said.

The goal is to be able to use the contents of the kits as a method of first response in the first 24 to 48 hours after a spill.

Arctic Bay mayor Niore Iqalukjuak said their Arctic community pack arrived in the summer. The four sea cans are down by the beach.

"I was told there would be training some time in the future but I really don't know when yet," he said.

Later this month he said the hamlet is planning on updating their community municipal plan and that he said they plan on looking into what would happen if there was an oil spill.

The training component seems to be taking longer than expected.

"We are still struggling with the overall picture of how it's all going to work," Trigatti said.

He said the Coast Guard is working with hamlets to make a list of people such as those who work with public works, the Canadian Rangers or the hamlet emergency committees in order to figure out who should get the training.

"We have to find the best way to fund this in the long term and sustain the funding," Trigatti said, adding they are looking to join forces with partner agencies.

As far as a solution goes, Iqalukjuak suggests: "What would be most ideal would be if they do the training in each community so more people can get an idea of what they're supposed to do, rather than sending people out to Iqaluit or wherever."

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