Downtown spill
Diesel fuel overflow floods street

Dawn Ostrem & Catherine Gillis
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 03/00) - A mechanical malfunction in the Yellowknife Inn's basement is being blamed for Friday afternoon's overflow of diesel fuel onto 50 Ave.

Firefighters were called to the scene just after 1 p.m.

They found that a day tank, which holds fuel to run boilers and furnaces in the building, failed to register as full once it had been refilled from a larger tank.

Once the tank started to overflow, fuel began leaking into Centre Square Mall's underground parkade and onto the street.

"The transfer pipe got stuck and it overflowed and came out the vent pipe. We caught it almost immediately after it happened," said Shawnette MacNeil, manager of the Yellowknife Inn.

Deputy fire Chief Mike Lowing said the cracks in the concrete in the parkade are not unusual.

"Most walls eventually breach," he said.

"It's not a fire code issue if the wall is structurally sound.

"These cracks are more common than unusual."

Lowing said although the diesel is combustible and flammable it is quite stable compared to other petroleum products like gasoline.

"But it is an environmental contaminant so we attempted to prevent it from entering the storm sewer system and entering the watershed," he said. "It can be quite difficult to contain and clean up."

Lowing estimated the amount to be about 200 litres and said the spill was contained within an hour. Don Helfrick, Environment Canada's hazardous waste specialist in Yellowknife, said the fire department was successful and it doesn't appear that any fuel escaped into the water system.

"I did look at the site and the fire department did a good job," he said, adding if there was a leak into the sewer system, "petroleum products float and there would be harm to organisms at the water surface."

The Yellowknife Inn has hired a consultant to evaluate the site.