Fuel tank found on Mackenzie River 'likley' drifted from Hay River: Dehcho Guardians

·3 min read
A seemingly empty fuel tank of approximately 5,000 liters in volume was found floating on the Mackenzie River just south of Fort Simpson, N.W.T.  (Department of Environment and Natural Resources - image credit)
A seemingly empty fuel tank of approximately 5,000 liters in volume was found floating on the Mackenzie River just south of Fort Simpson, N.W.T. (Department of Environment and Natural Resources - image credit)

A fuel tank about 5,000 liters in volume has drifted about 20 kilometres south of Fort Simpson, N.W.T.

That's where Herb Norwegian found it, but where exactly it came from isn't known.

Norwegian, along with the Dehcho Guardians who are keeping an eye on the tank, speculate it may have been swept away in Hay River's flooding and drifted up the Mackenzie River.

He said the tank has a Shell oil deckle, which makes him think it may have come from the Hay River, N.W.T. gas station.

A supervisor at the Shell in Hay River, however, said the tank wasn't theirs.

James Tetso, one of the Guardians, said the cylinder seems to match an image circulating on social media of a tank drifting over top of river ice in Hay River.

"It's likely that it came from the Hay River flood," he said.

Tetso said that he and some other Guardians came across the tank on Monday night and anchored it to shore so that it wouldn't drift further.

They had to tend to some field work, but Norwegian stepped in to tow the tank toward the community.

Submitted by Herb Norwegian
Submitted by Herb Norwegian

Norwegian towed the tank about two to three kilometres from Fort Simpson but said it was too windy to pull it up the rest of the way.

For now it's tied to some trees by the shoreline. In a few days he said he's hoping to bring it to the boat launch, pull it up to shore, talk to the mayor and then "figure out where they want to go with it from there."

That could mean bringing the tank to the dump, it being condemned or tracking down the owner.

"I imagine somebody up the river would wake up one days and start doing a little head count," Norwegian said "and then find maybe one tank that's missing."

"We'll let people know that there is a huge fuel tank in the hands of the people in Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́. I'm sure somebody will tell somebody and the word will get out," he said.

'Fuel vapours present'

Asked about the tank, a spokesperson from the government of the Northwest Territories' Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) directed CBC to a Facebook post about the tank.

In the post, ENR said "officers are looking into the issue and steps required to mitigate."

The department thanked the Guardians and others who reported the tank.

The department did not respond to questions prior to deadline about whether it was aware of any spillage from the tank or if ENR knows where it may have come from.

To report a spill or something like the floating tank, ENR encourages residents to visit its spill report site.

Norwegian said the tank is empty and that "it seems to be well sealed."

Tetso, however, said that there were "fuel vapours present," and said the team is being cautious of handling the flammable fuel.

Submitted by Herb Norwegian
Submitted by Herb Norwegian

The moral, Norwegian said, is the importance of caring for the water.

"I feel like it's my traditional responsibility to keep the rivers clean as much as possible and keep that kind of garbage out," he said, urging others to let someone know if they see something unusual in the waters.

"The last thing that you want to see is baby ducks swimming around in this stuff," he said "So, please just be aware of it and report it to the appropriate people."

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