The people of Nemaska are breathing a sigh of relief after a near disaster was averted with quick thinking and the help of the frozen ground.
On Sunday, May 2, a Jacques Auger transport truck was delivering fuel for Petronor to the Nemaska gas bar when a coupling broke. The gas immediately began to seep onto the ground. Lawrence Jimiken was appointed as the resource person to the emergency measures crew to try to fix the mess. He had to hurry to get some of the people back from Goose Break to help with the cleanup. Jimiken said the contaminated material couldn’t penetrate the frozen ground.
Environment Quebec and Emergency Measures at the Department of Indian Affairs were notified. More trouble occurred when a vacuum truck had mechanical problems in Matagami and was delayed getting to the community until May 4.
In all, 5,210 litres were spilled, and three families had to be evacuated from their homes.
The contaminated material was taken to a landfill site, 22 kilometres from the community and stored in a polyethylene sheet.
The community of Nemaska is waiting for the recommendations of the environment ministry for the best way to dispose of the waste.
The spill made it to within 45 metres of the town’s drinking supply. Jimiken assured residents that there was never any danger of the well being contaminated and that only a small amount of the waste remains.