The British Columbia (B.C.) Supreme Court has certified the first-ever environmental class action against the province.
The class action arises from a July 2013 spill of jet fuel into the Slocan River water system in southeastern B.C. The fuel spilled en route to a staging area for helicopters being used in a provincially-led wildfire firefighting effort. Also named as defendants in the class action are Executive Flight Centre Fuel Services Ltd., which was the contracted fuel supplier, fuel truck driver Danny LaSante and helicopter operator Transwest Helicopters Ltd.
The spill occurred as LaSante was attempting to return the truck to a main road after mistakenly turning onto a logging road. The truck tumbled down an embankment, spilling 35,000 litres of fuel into Lemon Creek, which flows into the Slocan River.
The spill led to the emergency evacuation of thousands of residents in the Slocan Valley and, according to the plaintiffs’ claim, caused millions of dollars of damage to both private property and the ecosystem. The claim alleges that the province made matters worse by taking fuel-contaminated water from the Slocan River as part of its firefighting efforts, which further spread contamination throughout the Slocan Valley watershed. The lawsuit is being brought by local property owner Robert Kirk on behalf of all other landowners and occupiers within the evacuation zone.
The defendants in the lawsuit blame each other. The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages for loss of use and enjoyment of property, loss of property value, and punitive and exemplary damages for various acts of negligence.
A trial date has not yet been set.