For the second year, Alberta Support and Emergency Response Team (ASERT) held its annual training exercise in Slave Lake. It took place at the fire training facility and the boat launch at the weir.
Nick Grimshaw is the executive director of ASERT.
Grimshaw describes the Slave Lake facility as unique.
“We’re extremely fortunate and grateful to be able to come to Slave Lake to do this annual training and really appreciate the support from the community to come here,” Grimshaw says. “The facilities are very realistic and comprehensive.”
In the past year, ASERT responded to 50 spills of some sort. This averages almost one a week.
This was out of over 200 notifications to the environmental response line.
Oil spills are only one type of environmental hazzard.
ASERT responds to “anything that has the potential to have an adverse impact on the environment, land or water,” says Grimshaw.
Examples include tank trucks, train derailments, and car accidents. These all have the potential for fluids to spill out of the vehicle. Any product released whether it is volitile or not, can be of concern.
Another example is an unexplained sheen on water, this might indicate oil or some other chemical.
One call this year, a tornado upturned some boats in a lake in central Alberta. ASERT was involved in cleaning up the spilled fluids in a safe matter, Grimshaw says.
ASERT also works with Alberta Wildfire to monitor air quality.
Various substances such as oil float on top of the water, so containment can be relatively shallow, Grimshaw says. Fertilizers are a different matter as they can dilute or stay in their original form.
If a contaminant floats, there are various types of dams which can be used in shallow water. There are canvas dams with pockets and flaps to allow clean water to through. The sand bags with a pipe can filter clean water out. Another example is made out of straw, chicken wire and zip ties. It is laid out on an angle to increase the surface area that the water and contaminant hit.
ASERT is also involved in monitoring aquatic invasive species like some types of muscles. They are also active in disaster response planning.
Clean up is often done by the person or company responsible for the spill, says Grimshaw, but ASERT works with them to make sure it is done with the whole environment in mind.
The main office is in Edmonton. There are five regional emergency response officers. One each in Grande Prairie, Whitecourt, Spruce Grove, Sherwood Park and Calgary. There is also a network of 40 to 45 people with training across the province.
ASERT has an “extended footprint across the province and a fairly robust response,” says Grimshaw.
The next two year cycle of training will be in southern Alberta.
If anyone sees a spill contact the 24 hour environmental response line at 1-800-222-6514.