FLETCHERS LAKE: More than 900 litres of diesel fuel is estimated to have leaked into a stream that feeds Lake Fletcher during a fuel spill on May 18.

Firefighters from Station 42 (Wellington) and Station 45 (Fall River) were paged out for a smell of fuel in the area of the Schwarzwald Heights subdivision. The fuel smell was located as coming from a residence on Laura Court, and had leaked into the ditch system and down the stream into Lake Fletcher.

Firefighters work to place absorption pads in the stream where fuel leaked into that feeds down into Lake Fletcher to try and contain a fuel spill on May 18. (Healey photo)

According to a firefighter on scene, the smell was first detected about 3 p.m. by a passing motorist who didn’t think anything more of it. Fire crews were only called at about 10:30 p.m.

The spill prompted a warning from Nova Scotia Environment (NSE) to area residents.

“People who draw water from the lake are advised to watch for an oily sheen and distinct odour,” said NSE spokeswoman Krista Higdon. “If present, they should avoid using the water. Boiling the water will not make it safe to drink.

She added that people with properties on municipal water supply can continue to drink their water.

Higdon explained NSE’s response to incidents of this type is twofold: to ensure that the appropriate people are responding to initiate assessment and cleanup; and to assess the potential impacts to public health and environment.

“We were aware that containment efforts were being undertaken throughout the night,” said Higdon on May 19. “NSE staff worked throughout the night to identify and make contact with the responsible parties to ensure they contacted their insurance company to initiate a clean-up. “

That contact was made at about 5:30 a.m., at which time the property owner told NSE they advised their insurance company of the emergency.

Lake Fletcher services Ash Lee Jefferson, the Grand Lake water protection area, Lockview High, and residents along the lake. Halifax Water shut down their intake for their Collins Park plant upon being notified of the incident.

Halifax Water spokesman James Campbell said the fuel spill did not impact those residence serviced by their Collins Park plant.

“We’re sampling our water there and it is clean,” he said on May 19.

He said crews from the company responded to the scene, even though it’s not something they usually look after.

“We responded to the scene even though it’s outside our jurisdiction, and vacuumed up as much of the surface water as we could,” said Campbell. “We have no role in these, but we were contacted so we responded.

HRM spokesman Brendan Elliott, speaking on behalf of Halifax Fire, said the firefighters role was to do the best they could to contain the oil and ensure it didn’t spread.

“We did that in this case,” he said May 19. “Part of our protocol is to also inform other agencies of the leak so they can then respond appropriately. We did that by contacting both Halifax Water and the provincial Environment Department.

Higdon said NSE staff were on site and had made contact with partners affected.

“We are in contact with Halifax Water, the Municipality of East Hants, and other partners and work is happening to contain the spill,” she said.

RCMP also responded to the call, but it was determined to not be anything criminal.