"Just a Small Spill" - A Dramatization of the Nestucca Oil Spill

The following audio file is the CBC dramatization of the December 1988 Nestucca oil spill that oiled the West coast of Vancouver Island.  It is a multi-part series that reinforces the need for both industry and government to share the responsibility to be prepared for an oil spill and - OR - live with the consequences of a scathing evaluation.  ABOUT 1 HOUR LONG - VERY ENTERTAINING LISTENING.


AVI File: Audio Only
Just a Small Spill2.avi
Video File 73.3 MB
Quicktime Movie: Audio only
Just a Small Spill2.mov
QuickTime Video Format 28.0 MB

The Nestucca oil barge spill was a small incident measured against world-wide volumes of oil spilled, but NOT from the coastal community standpoint of people living on the West coast of Vancouver Island nor from a political standpoint for the federal and provincial government in power at that time.  Where the environment silently heals over time, the tearing of the social fabric of affected communities and of disgruntled responders tend to last much longer.  If you talk to the residents and responders portrayed in this dramatization, they will probably respond with the same passion and concerns as if the spill impacts and response were currently underway.




In the early morning of December 23, 1988, the tug Ocean Service collided with its tow, the barge Nestucca, while trying to replace a broken tow line.  Both the barge and tug were owned by Sause Brothers Ocean Towing Co. of Coos Bay, Oregon and were en route from Ferndale, Washington to Portland, Oregon when the collision occurred approximately 3 kilometers off the coast of Washington, near Grays Harbor.  The barge was carrying over 69,000 barrels of Number 6 fuel oil.  The tug punctured a cargo tank, releasing an estimated 5500 barrels of the heavy marine fuel into the ocean.  It was an overcast, moonlit night and the vessels were reportedly rolling in 6 to 10 foot swells.


Bunker C fuel oil is a heavy product.  The oil began to impact the beaches in Grays Harbor on the morning of the spill, and was reported to be spreading to the north.  By noon on December 23, 1988, USCG personnel at Westport reported that beaches inside Grays Harbor were covered with 1/2 inch thick patches of oil.  Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) representatives reported that oil was washing ashore near Ocean Shores, Washington.  Offshore oil was observed mainly in the form of light sheen with small patches and pancakes of oil.  The oil impacted several coastal beaches in the area of Ocean Shores in the first five days.  No oil from this spill was observed on beaches south of Grays Harbor. 


The oil moving north formed sheen; however, it was later determined that a substantial slick was moving beneath the surface.  The initial estimates of the amount spilled were inaccurate and only small globules of oil could be detected at sea by December 29, 1988. 


Oil came ashore in Canada on Vancouver Island from near Victoria in the southeast to near Cape Scott in the north.  Along the coastline, the CCG estimated that a total of about 95 miles of shoreline were oiled, with 1.5 miles heavily oiled.  The first impact of oil was on December 31, 1988, at Carmanah Point, on the west coast of Vancouver Island.  Over the next 15 days, the oil reached to Cape Scott at the northwest tip of Vancouver  Island.  On January 27, 1989, oiled material, determined to be from the Nestucca, was found in the Moore  Islands area on the mainland of British Columbia.

Comments: 0 (Discussion closed)
    There are no comments yet.

EnviroEmerg Consulting

3520 Glenora Road

Duncan,  British Columbia,
Canada  V9L 6S2




Mobile: (250) 732-5515

Skype: Stafford Reid